By Keith Bacongco
DAVAO CITY – Banking on the overwhelming victory of the recently concluded plebiscite in Cotabato City, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Information Committee Chair Mohagher Iqbal is quite confident that they could sustain the victory in 67 barangays of seven towns in North Cotabato.
Iqbal told the Manila Bulletin that he is almost sure that a “Yes” vote would prevail in all 67 barangays on plebiscite day on February 6.
“I’m almost sure in North Cotabato because of the support of the local leaders, especially in the Christian communities to support the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” he said.
He noted the positive response of the local officials along with the Christian villagers saying that they have vowed to vote in favor of the inclusion of the 67 barangays to the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
On Tuesday, the Commission on Election (Comelec) Cotabato City proclaimed the votes that were in favor of the inclusion of the city in the BARMM were at 36,682 over the “No” votes of 24,994.
North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza has assured that the provincial government, along with the mayors of the seven towns, is fully supporting the proposal to include the 67 barangays in the BARMM.
Carmen Mayor Rogelio Taliño, chair of the League of Municipalities in the province, echoed her daughter’s stance describing the move as like a daughter or a son asking for a permission to marry and form his or her own family.
“Simple logic lang, parehas lang yan ng mga anak natin na nagpapaalam na aalis ng bahay para bumuo ng sariling pamilya,” Taliño said in a recent gathering of Muslims in the province.
Under Section 3 of Article XV, Bangsamoro Organic Law or Republic Act No. 11054 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 majority of the votes cast in the municipality to which the barangay belongs shall be in favor of the inclusion of the barangay in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”
From the original 39 villages, it rose to 67 following the petitions filed before the Comelec.
The 39 barangays voted “yes” for inclusion in the proposed expanded ARMM in 2001. They are Dunguan, Lower Mingading and Tapodoc in Aleosan; Manarapan and Nasapian in Carmen; Nanga-an, Simbuhay, and Sanggadong in Kabacan; Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kapinpilan, Kudarangan, Central Labas, Malingao, Mudseng, Nabalawag, Olandang, Sambulawan, and Tugal in Midsayap; Lower Baguer, Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Kadingilan, Matilac, Patot, and Lower Pangangkalan in Pigcawayan; and Bagoinged, Balatican, S. Balong, S. Balongis, Batulawan, Buliok, Gokotan, Kabasalan, Lagunde, Macabual, and Macasendeg in Pikit.
After the petitions before the Comelec, 28 more villages were added to the list: Pagangan (Aleosan), Kibayao, Ktulaan, Langogan, Pebpoloan and Tupig (Carmen); Buluan, Pedtad, Simone and Tamped (Kabacan); Tumbras (Midsayap); Datu Mantil, Libungan Torreta, Upper Pangangkalan and Simsiman (Pigcawayan); Barungis, Bualan, Bulol, Fort Pikit, Gli-gli, Manaulanan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, Nunguan, Pamalian, Panicupan and Rajahmuda (Pikit); and Galidan village in Tulunan town.
Of the 67 proposed barangays for inclusion in the BARMM, the town of Pikit has the most number of villages included in the list with 23 of its 42 barangays.
Pikit, a Muslim dominated town, is the home of the MILF’s third biggest controlled-community known as Camp Rajamuda that sprawls across its neighboring town of Pagalungan in Maguindanao.
However, Iqbal admitted that they are not so sure of winning the six towns in Lanao del Norte saying they do not have the support of the local politicians.
“Pero ang taong bayan suportado nila ang BOL,” he said.
Like in North Cotabato, a plebiscite will also take place on February 6 in the municipalities of Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in the Province of Lanao del Norte. But each town has to earn majority of the votes to be included in the BARMM.
Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, representing Maguindanao’s 1st congressional district including this city, said she will file on Monday a bill naming this tri-people (Muslim-Christian-Lumad) community as the official seat of BARMM governance.
Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, former ARMM executive secretary and legal adviser to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), yesterday expressed agreement with the intention of Rep. Sema, one of BOL main authors in the House.
Sinarimbo hinted that the MILF leadership was also inclined to make this city the official BARMM host, it being the “crown jewel” of Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. (With a report from Ali G. Macabalang)