Officials laud SC decision upholding inclusion of Cotabato City in BARMM

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo. Minister for Interior and Local Government, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 13 January) — A top official of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) expressed relief and jubilation after the Supreme Court junked the petition seeking to nullify the conduct of the plebiscite creating the BARMM, the inclusion of Cotabato City in the political entity and the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

In a decision made on January 10 but only made public on Thursday, the SC upheld the inclusion of Cotabato City to the autonomous region as well as the validity of the plebiscite itself.

Majority of the voters in Cotabato City, then a part of Region 12, voted yes to be part of the new Bangsamoro region, during the plebiscite on January 21, 2019 for the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM.

“Of course we are happy, this affirms that the result was overwhelming. We have been saying this before that the popular will of the people is to join the newly established region of Bangsamoro,” said lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Interior and Local Government Minister and spokesperson of BARMM.

“We thanked the Supreme Court for recognizing the popular will of the people and the people who chose to be part of the region. The flow of projects and programs for the city will smoothly continue now,” Sinarimbo, also the deputy secretary of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, added.

The Bangsamoro government has poured over half a billion pesos for several projects in Cotabato City from the block grant amounting to more than 85 billion pesos.

Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao, who ran under the UBJP in the May 2022 elections, also lauded the Court’s decision.

“The decision proves that the 2019 plebiscite was indeed free, honest, credible, and peaceful. Together, we overcame countless obstacles and reached countless victories by sticking to the oath of moral governance,” he said.

He added the Bangsamoro owes its existence to the ”blood, sweat, and tears of the mujahideen as well as the people who endured a great deal of pain and suffering for the sake of the cause.”

Matabalao ran against then incumbent mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who opposed the inclusion of the city in BARMM. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)