For now, BARMM is ARMM plus Cotabato City as 1.6M vote ‘yes,’ 246,185 vote ‘no”

DAVAO CITY (MIndaNews / 24 January) — Although still unofficial until the proclamation by the National Board of Canvassers, final results of the January 21 plebiscite in the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela show RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been ratified by an overwhelming majority in its proposed core territory: 1.6 million “yes” and 246,185 “no.”

The ARMM and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, according to records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have 2,165,316 registered voters. Of this number, 1,595,731 voted “yes” (73.70%) while 246,185 voted “no” (11.37%). A total of 1,841,916 or 85.06% actually voted.

Counting of votes in Marawi City during the 21 January 2019 plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro law. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

The results show that as of Monday’s plebiscite, the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is ARMM plus Cotabato City. Isabela City rejected inclusion in the BARMM as did Sulu but Sulu will still be part of the BARMM because the law provides that the ARMM votes as “one geographical area.”

The BARMM is the new autonomous political entity that will replace the 28-year old ARMM, in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014.

Whether or not the six towns in Lanao del Norte and 67 villages in seven North Cotabato towns would also be part of the BARMM will be determined only on February 6 when voters in these areas troop to the polls in the second and last plebiscite day.

The present ARMM comprises Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu,Tawi-tawi and Basilan and the cities of Marawi in Lanao del Sur and Lamitan in Basilan.

ARMM, Cotabato, Isabela

The ARMM’s Board of Plebiscite Canvassers completed its canvass Thursday afternoon as soon as the Certificate of Canvass (COC) of Tawi-tawi – the last of five provincial COCs — arrived.

Out of a total of 1,980,441 registered voters in the ARMM, 1,540,017 voted “yes” (77.76%) while 198,750 voted “no” (10.04%). A total of 1,738,767 actually voted for a voter turnout of 87.80%

According to their COCs, this is how the ARMM provinces voted: Basilan including Lamitan City (147,598 yes; 6,486 no); Lanao del Sur inclusive of Marawi City (503,420 yes; 9,735 no); Maguindanao (599,581 yes; 9,096 yes) and Tawi-tawi (151,788 yes, 9,907 no).

Sulu’s COC shows that 163,526 voted “no” while 138,630 voted “yes” or a margin of 25,896.

The provincial government of Sulu has a pending petition before the Supreme Court questioning the unconstitutionality of RA 11054, including the provision on treating it as one geographical area.

In Cotabato City, 36,682 voted “yes” while 24,994 voted “no,” or a margin of 11,688 votes.

But Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who led the campaign to vote “no” in the plebiscite, told MindaNews Wednesday morning that they will file a protest. Citing irregularities and threats, Sayadi claimed the results “do not reflect the true will of the people.”

Isabela City in Basilan rejected inclusion in the BARMM with 22,441 voting “no” and 19,032 voting “yes” or a margin of 3,409.

Additional territory

On February 6, it will be the turn of the voters in six Lanao del Norte towns and in 67 villages in seven North Cotabato towns to make their decision. But in these areas, even if they vote “yes,” the consent of their mother units is needed for them to be part of the BARMM.

RA 11054 provides under Section 3 of Article XV that any of the municipalities of Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte that votes favorably for its inclusion in the BARMM shall form part of it “provided that the majority of the votes cast in the Province of Lanao del Norte shall be in favor of the inclusion of the municipality in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

In the same section, the law also provides that any of the barangays in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigcawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that would vote favorably for inclusion in the BARMM shall be part of it provided that the other voters in their municipalities will give their consent to be part of the BARMM.

The six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages in six North Cotabato towns voted for inclusion in the supposed “expanded” ARMM in 2001 but remained with their mother units.

North Cotabato Gov.Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza expresses her full support for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in her speech during a gathering at Amas Capitol Gym, Kidapawan City on Saturday. MINDANEWS PHOTO

Aside from the 39 villages, Comelec approved the petition for inclusion of 28 more villages in North Cotabato that are contiguous to the present ARMM, to make the number 67 villages in the six towns plus Tulunan.

Overall, in North Cotabato, the villages that are proposed to be part of the BARMM territory are four out of 19 barangays in Aleosan; seven of 28 in Carmen; seven of 24 in Kabacan; 13 of 57 in Midsayap; 12 of 40 in Pigkawayan; 23 of 42 in Pikit; and one in Tulunan. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)