COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 20 November) – Sixty-three villages in six North Cotabato towns that voted yes to inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the February 2019 plebiscite were formally turned over Wednesday by Acting North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza to Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim.
Mendoza together with Acting Vice-Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva officially handed the key of responsibility to the Bangsamoro officials led by Ebrahim, concurrent chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The 63 barangays were part of the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigcawayan. Four other barangays voted no to inclusion in the Bangsamoro region.
The Provincial Board of North Cotabato last month passed Resolution 838 informing Ebrahim that the Provincial Government is “ready to turn over the 63 BARMM barangays in Cotabato province” on November 20, 2019.
The 63 barangays turned over to BARMM are: Dunguan and Tapodoc in Aleosan; Manarapan, Nasapian, Kibayao, Ktulaan, Langogan, Pebpoloan and Tupig in Carmen; Nanga-an, Simbuhay, Sanggadong, Buluan, Pedtad, Simone and Tamped in Kabacan; Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kapinpilan, Kudarangan, Central Labas, Malingao, Mudseng, Nabalawag, Olandang, Sambulawan, Tugal and Tumbras in Midsayap; Lower Baguer, Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Kadingilan, Matilac, Patot, Lower Pangangkalan, Datu Mantil, Libungan Torreta, Upper Pangangkalan and Simsiman in Pigkawayan; and Bagoinged, S. Balong, S. Balongis, Batulaawan, Buliok, Gokotan, Kabasalan, Lagunde, Macabual, Macasendeg, Barungis, Bualan, Bulol, Fort Pikit, Gli-gli, Manaulanan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, Nunguan, Pamalian, Panicupan and Rajah Muda.
Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Interior and Local Government said the 63 barangays will be constituted into a special geographic area under an administrator and will continue to receive Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).
In his speech, Sinarimbo said the handover does not mean a separation but instead a reunification from the former Cotabato empire.
The Cotabato Empire, established in 1914 was dissolved in 1973 through Presidential Decree 341 issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos, who, using his martial law powers, divided it into the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. Earlier in 1966, several towns of the Cotabato province were carved out to constitute South Cotabato. In 1992, several towns were carved out of South Cotabato to form Sarangani province.
“This an opportunity not just to connect with the new Bangsamoro region but more importantly to see yourself as a connector to your neighbors in North Cotabato. This is the very reason why during the recent earthquake in North Cotabato we did not have second thoughts to immediately (deploy) our rescue team there,” Sinarimbo told said.
Mendoza ssaid they are “honored to be part of this history, to partake with you our common struggle for everlasting peace. This event is a continuing reminder of our unified cooperation and love for Mindanao.”
Ebrahim warmly welcomed the 63 barangays, addressing their mayors and barangay chairs who were present.
He thanked them for the unwavering support and trust.
“Aasahan nyo po na gagawin namin ang lahat upang hindi mapabayaan ang inyong mga constituents at maipakita sa kanila ang serbisyong inyong naipamahagi, ang inyong Serbisyong Totoo at ang aming Moral governance,”Ebrahim assured in his acceptance speech.
Cotabato City, which also voted yes to inclusion in the Bangsamoro region, has yet to be turned over.
Based on the plebiscite results, BARMM comprises five provinces (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguinanao), three cities (Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato) and the 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews with a report by Carolyn O. Arguillas)