By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – This city has been included in the core territory of the Bangsamoro autonomous region through the 2019 plebiscite, but its placement under official supervision by regional authorities remains under debate.
At their 31st cabinet meeting here recently, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) administration, led by Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, reportedly announced that Cotabato City should be placed under their official supervision within this month.
The forecast was based on a timeline set by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as prescribed by the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB), co-chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III (for central government) and Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal (representing BARMM).
The IGRB was created by President Duterte late last year purportedly to coordinate and resolve issues concerning the devolution of powers and resources to BARMM as well as its relationship with local and national entities.
The President officially installed the BARMM bureaucracy and parliament on March 29, 2019, two months after Republic Act 11054 (regional charter) was ratified in the January 21, 2019 plebiscite across Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan, as well as the cities of Lamitan and Marawi. Such areas are components of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the new regional effectively replaced under the law.
In the subsequent February 8, 2019 plebiscite, resident-voters in this city and 63 barangays in six North Cotabato towns decided favorably for inclusion in BARMM.
The North Cotabato provincial government had turned its jurisdictional authority over the 63 barangay to the regional government in formal ceremony here last November 20.
Regional authorities, notably the BARMM Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG), have been expecting Cotabato City officials to follow suit.
But Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia-Sayadi, a lawyer who has a pending electoral protest on the conduct of the February 8, 2019 plebiscite, has reportedly asked the BARMM government to legislate first its administrative code and other pertinent edicts before contemplating to acquire official supervision over her turf.
MILF Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, also a lawyer, said his agency had extensively trained some 100 local government operations officers (LGOOs) to “effectively carry out” plans and projects in all local government units within BARMM.
Among the projects, it was learned, is the MILG’s planned construction of modern barangay hall worth between three and five million pesos each for all 2,590 villages across BARMM.
BARMM officials said DILG Sec. Eduardo Año, a member of the ICRG, was expected to issue a memorandum order for Cotabato City government to cause the turnover of jurisdictional authority to the autonomous government before the end of this month.