COMMENT: BBL: Issues on Territory

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 October)–Concerns were raised on the annexation to Bangsamoro of 39 barangays of North Cotabato during a Senate committee hearing in Cotabato City last October 8 (INQUIRER.net, October 8, 2014:Bangsamoro prone to gerrymandering, says Marcos). Another concern was to provide in the BBL a maximum limit in the number of parliamentary districts in Bangsamoro to prevent “gerrymandering or the creation of new districts by manipulating territorial boundaries”.

This article will focus on the 39 barangays and related issues.

Administrative Lapses

Thirty-nine barangays “in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite under Republic Act No. 9054” are considered Bangsamoro core territories (Draft BBL, Art. III, Sec. 2.b and Art. XV, Sec. 1.c.i-vi).

As enumerated in XV.1.c.i-vi w/ correction from Appendix to the Basic Law: Dunguan, Lower Mingading, and Tapodoc (Aleosan, 3); Manarapan and Nasapian (Carmen, 2); Nanga-an, Simbuhay and Sanggadong (Kabacan, 3); Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kapinpilan, Kudarangan, Central Labas, Malingao, Mudseng, Nabalawag, Olandang, Sambulawan, and Tugal (Midsayap, 12); Lower Baguer, Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Kadingilan, Matilac, Patot, and Lower Pangangkalan (Pigkawayan, 8); Bagoinged, Balatican, S. Balong, S. Balongis, Batulawan, Buliok, Gokoton, Kabasalan, Lagunde, Macabial, Macasendeng, (Pikit, 11).

[Note: As posted in the website of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, all three copies of the BBL (Draft, House Bill 4994, and Senate Bill 2408) listed Pigkawayan twice, v and vi. In the Appendix, the “vi” is Pikit.]

According to INQUIRER.net, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou J. Taliño-Mendoza said administrative lapses may stem from the annexation of 39 barangays of the province to Bangsamoro, commenting that these villages are not even contiguous to territories under Bangsamoro.

What could she mean by “administrative lapses”? Is her comment correct?

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who co-presided the hearing with Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said the annexation of the 39 barangays may spell isolation and alienation.

“Administrative lapses” and “isolation and alienation” may be co-related. Once the barangays are annexed to Bangsamoro, they are severed from their long-time mother municipalities. They comprise a special parliamentary district, not part of regular municipalities belonging to regular parliamentary districts. From where will they get primary services? From where will they draw their IRA (Internal Revenue Allocation)? Can these be “administrative lapses”? With these go “isolation and alienation”.

Administrative lapses may also refer to the political, financial and economic impact of the territorial reduction on the mother municipality, depending on the number and status of the barangays transferred. For instance, 11 barangays out of 42 removed from Pikit, 12 out of 57 from Midsayap, or 8 out of 40 from Pigcawayan can have significant impact on the three mother municipalities. This may not be so in the case of Kabacan, 3 out of 24; or, of Carmen, 2 out of 28.

Contiguous

Governor Talino-Mendoza’s comment should remind the congressional committees to specifically define “contiguous”. As used in the draft, the word is meant as generally defined in the dictionary: “being in actual contact” or “adjacent”. The word is not found in the autonomy sections of Article X of the 1987 Constitution. In the second paragraph of Act II, Section 1 of RA 9054, “contiguous” is mentioned once but used in context differently from that in the BBL draft.

In the BBL draft, “geographical areas” specifically means either “municipalities” or “barangays”. “Contiguous” should specifically mean:

First, two or more barangays are contiguous if their boundaries are adjacent, one to the other; the same can be said of municipalities.

Second, separated barangays are contiguous to a municipality if their boundaries are adjacent to or adjoining that of the municipality; the same may be said of separated municipalities to a province.

In the BBL draft, “the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagaloan and Tangkal in the Province of Lanao del Norte” are core territory of Bangsamoro because they “voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite” (III.2.b). Whether contiguous one to the other or separated, they must be contiguous to Lanao del Sur.

The 39 barangays in the six municipalities of North Cotabato also voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite. The barangays may not be all contiguous to one another but their mother municipalities – with the exception of Aleosan and Carmen — are contiguous to the municipalities of Maguindanao – Pigcawayan to Sultan Kudarat and Kabuntalan; Midsayap to Datu Piang and Kabuntalan; Pikit to Pagalungan and Datu Piang; and Kabacan to Pagalungan.

However, Gov.Talino-Mendoza’s comment must be verified. She could not just be referring to Aleosan and Carmen. The two have boundaries conjoining those of Pikit and Kabacan. Their barangays that had voted for inclusion could be contiguous to those of Pikit and/or Kabacan that have similarly voted and are contiguous to Pagalungan.

Incidentally, Draft BBL.XV.4 defines what is “contiguous” as usedin the draft – Any local government unit or geographic area outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, but which are contiguous to any of the component units of the Bangsamoro, upon a verified petition …” (Bold text ours).

Only by Presumption

As geographical areas, six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Coabato, voting for inclusion in the 2001 plebiscite, were presumed to have become part of the ARMM according to “Section 18, Article X of the Constitution” and ”Section 1” and “Section 2(b) of Article II of RA 9054”. They are Bangsamoro core territory by presumption.

RA 9054 did not make any reference to “barangays” voting for inclusion. Could the silence mean “inclusion” for the 39 barangays that voted so? Can North Cotabato question in the Supreme Court the inclusion of its 39 barangays in the core territory of Bangsamoro? These are interesting legal questions.

RA 9054 required an enabling law for municipalities voting for inclusion to be finally included in the Expanded ARMM. The law will “provide that clusters of contiguous-Muslim-dominated municipalities voting in favor of autonomy be merged and constituted into a new province(s) which shall become part of the new Autonomous Region” (II.1). Without the enabling law, the six municipalities remained with Lanao del Norte.

Only Marawi City and Basilan joined the Expanded ARMM; their inclusion was without any qualification.

Suggestions

We don’t think the government of Lanao del Norte will create any problem. Will Governor Talino-Mendoza protest? Is she like former Gov. Emmanuel Pinol?

As to their final inclusion in Bangsamoro core territory, the six municipalities and 39 barangays have to confirm it in the BBL plebiscite. If they vote “NO”, they will be out. The governments of the six municipalities and/or North Cotabato can campaign for “NO” if they want to keep their barangays. The same may be done by the government of Lanao del Norte.

We would like to suggest amendments to the Articles on Territory and on Plebiscite of the Draft BBL as House Bill 4994 and Senate Bill 2804:

First, contiguous municipalities voting for inclusion shall be made part of the Bangsamoro province or city they are contiguous to – not as parliamentary district.

Second¸ barangays voting for inclusion should be made part of the Bangsamoro municipality or city they are contiguous to – not as parliamentary district.

Third, The division of Bangsamoro provinces into parliamentary districts should be done by the BTA after the plebiscite.

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Erratum: This is to correct the first sentence of Paragraph 5 in “BBL: What in the Aftermath?” (MindaNews, October 9) to read: “The OIC had numerous exploratory talks with President Ferdinand E. Marcos before the OIC, the MNLF and the GRP inked the Tripoli Agreement …”—“GRP” had been omitted. – PPD

“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected])

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