By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu (2nd district, Maguindanao) is reviving a proposal for the division of Maguindanao into two provinces in what his supporters described as a bold step to fully turn the province into “MagandaNow.”
Mangudadatu filed on Monday House Bill 3054 grouping all 11 towns in the first district to constitute “Magguindanao North” with Sultan Kudarat town as provincial seat.
Maguindanao presently has 36 towns, 11 of which constitute the province’s first Congressional district. The 11 towns include Parang, Datu Odin Sinsuat and Sultan Kudarat municipalities, which are the most populated and vote-richest in the province. They have a total population of 821,475 as of 2015.
Under Rep. Mangudadatu’s 30-page draft bill, the province’s 25 other towns comprising presently the second district will constitute the mother province – Maguindanao. The 25 towns, including the present Buluan capital town, have a total population of 651,896 as of 2015.
Former 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, before the lapse last June 30 of her three-elective terms, had filed a bill for the creation of her 11-town turf into a separate province. Her bill, however, did not gain priority deliberation in the 17th Congress.
Former Muslim Mindanao legislative Speaker Ronnie Sinsuat, who succeeded Sema via the 2019 midterm elections, is reportedly supportive of the splitting of Maguindanao into two provinces.
Months before the 2019 midterm polls, then Gov. Mangudadatu, Speaker Sinsuat and former Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura had formed a political alliance, and agreed on common agenda – to create another province out of Maguindanao.
Mangudadadtu earlier told The Manila Bulletin that upon his assumption as lawmaker, he would push for the creation of Maguindanao North to fortify focal efforts in steering “smaller provinces” towards greater heights.
He hinted that dividing Maguindanao can help flesh out the Duterte government’s vision in bringing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at par with developed regions in the country. Maguindanao is BARMM’s most populated and vote-richest component province.
Political-wise, splitting Maguindanao can also help ease the usual intense political intramurals over provincial and congressional positions among politicians from the 1st and 2nd districts, Mangudadatu’s supporters said.
They said Mangudadatu’s proposal may also put an end finally to the decades-old tug-of-war between politicians in the first and second districts over the legal issue of the “official provincial seat.”