By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Maguindanao and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema has filed a bill seeking to declare Cotabato City as the capital of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Under House Bill 8880, the woman lawmaker is seeking to declare Cotabato City as the BARMM capital.
“Dubbed as the crown jewel of the Bangsamoro Homeland, it is fitting and proper that Cotabato City be declared as the capital of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” she said.
She noted that in a plebiscite conducted on January 21, 2019 pursuant to Republic Act 11054, the people of Cotabato City including the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) voted for its inclusion to the BARMM.
“Thereafter, the Comelec serving as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers officially proclaimed Cotabato City as now part of the BARMM in view of overwhelmingly majority of votes cast in the plebiscite,” Sema added.
She recalled that Cotabato City rejected two plebiscites to be part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as two revolutionary fronts–MNLF and MILF did not support the previous proposals.
Nonetheless, the Office of the Regional Government of the ARMM has been established in Cotabato City, she said.
“Cotabato City was the administrative center of the ARMM when Maguindanao was carved out in 1973. However, the city broke off administratively from Maguindanao as it rejoined SOCCSKSARGEN or Region 12 in the 1990s,” Sema said.
According to the former deputy speaker, in 1515, the Sultanate of Maguindanao was formally established with Kota Wato (now Cotabato City) as its capital, and ruled a vast territory in Mindanao.
“Several towns were carved off from Cotabato Empire since the year 1913. Cotabato City used to be part of the original province of Cotabato and was its capital from 1920 until 1967, a year after the separation of South Cotabato,” she said.
House Bill 8880 provides that Cotabato City be declared the capital of BARMM. The proposed Act shall take effect upon approval, it said.