COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 22 January) — At around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, chants of “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” reverberated in different parts in the city after it made history with majority of the votes favoring the inclusion of the area in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
With their horns blowing, hundreds of motorcycles and vehicles owned by Bangsamoro people streamed into the main streets of the city when most of the commercial establishments were already closed after word spread like wildfire that the votes favored inclusion in the new Bangsamoro.
The final and official results of the canvassing by the Cotabato City Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (CCPBC) showed that 36,682 voted in favor of the city’s inclusion against the 24,994 “no” votes, or a difference of 11,688 votes.
The canvasing was held at the heavily secured Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Naguib Sinarimbo, secretary general of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said they were happy with the decision of the voters during the plebiscite.
“The Bangsamoro people in Cotabato City have finally spoken with these convincing votes favoring its inclusion to the BARMM,” he told MindaNews.
Cotabato City has been the seat of government of the 28-year old ARMM.
The city rejected inclusion in the ARMM during the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites.
Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who served as ARMM Solicitor General under the administrations of Nur Misuari and Zaldy Ampatuan, campaigned hard against the city’s inclusion in the BARMM.
Sayadi had described Monday’s plebiscite as “marred with violence and intimidation.”
The BARMM will replace the ARMM once voters ratify Republic Act Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The plebiscite was conducted on January 21 in areas under ARMM and the cities of Isabela in Basilan and Cotabato, which is part of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen region.
ARMM and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato have a combined registered voters of around 2.2 million.
Sinarimbo said Cotabato City was excluded in the ARMM “as the Bangsamoro people did not come out to vote during the first two plebiscites.”
“Our hard work to campaign for the inclusion of Cotabato City to the BARMM paid off,” he said.
Another plebiscite will be held on February 6 for areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato that petitioned for inclusion in the BARMM. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)