By Ali G. Macabalang and Keith Bacongco
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Local officials here have filed a petition seeking the inclusion of 44 North Cotabato Moro-dominated villages in the proposed territory of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Taher Guiambangan Solaiman, a North Cotabato-based peace advocate and social network builder, said the formal petition was filed before the central office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Nov. 5.
The petitioning group was led by incumbent provincial Board Member Kelie Antao, who led the preparation of official documentary requirements and the raising of fund for the filing fee and travel expenses of his group, it was learned.
Antao told the Manila Bulletin that they are confident the Commission on Elections will approve the petition of the 44 barangays.
The local initiative added another town and three more North Cotabato villages proposed for coverage by BARMM, a geopolitical entity prescribed for creation under R.A. 11054 which was passed by the 17th Congress and signed into law by President Duterte last July.
The new law, which seeks to implement the provisions of two major peace deals forged by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), mentions only 39 barangays (villages) in six towns of North Cotabato that are subject to inclusion proceeding through a plebiscite set in January next year.
Originally mentioned in R.A. 11054 are Moro-dominated 39 villages in North Cotabato’s Carmen, Kabacan, Pikit, Pigcawayan, Midasayap and Aleosan towns. The pending petition added two Moro villages in Matalam town, namely barangays Ilian and Natutungan.
Other petitioners are barangays Pagangan in Aleosan; Kibayao, Kitulaan, Langogan, Lanoon, Manili, Pebpoluan and Tupig in Carmen; Buluan, Kayaga, Kilagasan, Lower Paatan, Magatos, Simone and Tamped in Kabacan; Rangeban and Tumbras in Midsayap; Banucagun, Cabpangi, Datumantil, Libungan, Toreta, Simsiman, and Upper Pangangkalan in Pigawayan; and Balabak, Barungis, Bualan, Bulod, Bulol, Dalingaoen, Fort Pikit,Gli-Gli, Inug-ug, Langayen, Manaulanan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, Nunguan, Pamalian, Panicupan, Rajahmuda, Talitayand Tinutulan in Pikit.
R.A. 11054, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), prescribes BARMM to cover the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (now comprising Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan), the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and six towns Balo-I, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte.
Traditional and social media reports have been indicating that majority of the people approve of the BOL until Sulu Governor Sakur Tan II filed last month a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of BOL and asking the High Tribunal to prevent the Comelec from proceeding with the plebiscite scheduled in January next year.
Prior to the filing of Gov. Tan’s petition, local Comelec officials have announced that one person has filed a certificate of candidacy for ARMM governor and six others for regional vice governor.
The Comelec is reportedly preparing for the May 2019 election proceedings for 12 senatorial slots and thousands of local elective positions, excluding the 24 elective posts in ARMM due to the supposed implementation of the BOL. The BOL seeks the abolition of ARMM and its replacement by the BARMM in transitory process expected to begin in January next year.