COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Dec) – Nearly two years after its residents voted “yes” to inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Cotabato City is now officially part of the region, its supervision transferred effective December 15 from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to the Bangsamoro’s Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG).
Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Año and Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo led the ceremonial turnover through signing of documents on the transfer of supervision of Cotabato City to the BARMM, as well as properties and assets, and movable properties and records of the Cotabato Field Office of the DILG.
Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who campaigned against inclusion of Cotabato City in the BARMM in last year’s plebiscite, was a no-show.
Sayadi, in a February 7 position paper addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, asked the President to “hold in abeyance the turnover of Cotabato City to BARMM” and to maintain the status quo “until such time that the three-year transition period has been completed and the BARMM bureaucracy would have been fully operational.”
“Nagagalak akong makasama kayo sa ating makasaysayang paglipat ng Lungsod ng Cotabato, kasama ang iba pang mga barangays, pag-aari at kagamitan, sa pamamahala ng BARMM (I’m happy to be with you in this historic transfer of the City of Cotabato, including a number of barangays, and properties and equipment, under the care of the BARMM),” Año said.
Año also turned over to Sinarimbo the supervision for the 63 barangays in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the BARMM.
“The people have spoken, their outcry for autonomy resounding loud and clear throughout the archipelago,” Año said.
He underscored that through the leadership of Chief Minister Ahod Murad Ebrahim and Minister Sinarimbo, “we will continue to improve the standard of governance and steer public service to cater to the needs of our Moro brethren.”
In his acceptance speech, Sinarimbo vowed to ensure that Cotabato City and the 63 villages in North Cotabato are “able to optimize their performance which will redound to the benefit of the people.”
He named the officials who would be assigned to the Cotabato City field office of the BARMM’s MILG and assured the audience that they will give the “same quality of services” that the DILG gave.
“We welcome the city of Cotabato and the 63 barangays in North Cotabato to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Sinarimbo said.
Aside from Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Police Gen. Debold Sinas, chief of the Philippine National Police, flew to this city to witness the historic event. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB), sent a representative.
Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim said that in the turnover of Cotabato City and the 63 North Cotabato villages to the BARMM, “Lahat tayo ay panalo, walang talo” (all of us are winners, there are no losers).
Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, who chaired the MILF peace panel and is now head of the peace implementing panel and IGRB co-chair, described the turnover as a “defining moment in our history as a people.”
“Surely, you will not regret this decision of joining the BARMM, insha Allah,” Iqbal said.
Cotabato City voted for inclusion in the BARMM on January 21, 2019, with 36,682 in favor and 24,990 against. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)