COTABATO CITY–Bangsamoro local officials believe that the 2019 plebiscite, which determined whether Cotabato City should be included in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was conducted with honesty and integrity.
This was after the SC En Banc of the Philippines unanimously affirmed the inclusion of the City in the region during its deliberation on Jan. 10, 2023.
The Government of the Day welcomed and thanked the Supreme Court (SC) leadership for upholding the democratic will of the people of Cotabato City and for ensuring that an important piece of the Bangsamoro Peace Process is in place.
“The Bangsamoro Government welcomes the Supreme Court of the Philippines’ decision to uphold the plebiscite including the Cotabato City in the new region,” Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said.
“Cotabato City is and will always be the crown jewel of the Bangsamoro and a home to some of the most important moments of our history,” Ebrahim added.
Meanwhile, Cotabato City Mayor Mohammad Ali “Bruce” Matabalao stressed that SC’s crucial decision means that the 2019 plebiscite was conducted with integrity.
“The decision proves that the 2019 plebiscite was, indeed, free, honest, credible, and peaceful. Together, we overcame countless obstacles and reached countless victories by sticking to the oath of Moral Governance. This is also meant to make our city and region stronger than ever before,” Matabalao said.
During the deliberation, the court unanimously denied the petition for the inclusion of Cotabato City while two (2) Justices took no part and one (1) Justice was on leave. Meanwhile, there was no dissent.
“The decision emphasized the constitutional mandate of the Commission to guarantee the proper exercise of the right of suffrage which the Supreme Court will not interfere with if there is no grave abuse of discretion,” the SC statement reads.
“The mere allegation that the inclusion of Cotabato City in the newly-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was not the true intention of the voters of Cotabato City will not persuade this Court to overturn the actions of the Commission on Elections,” the decision stated.
To recall, on Jan. 21, 2019, a plebiscite was held to determine whether Cotabato City should be included in the Bangsamoro region. Based on the Certificate of Canvass of Votes, 38,682 individuals voted in favor of the inclusion, while 24,994 voted against it.
Petitioners Amil Sula, Gaspar Asi, and Hussein Malik, Sr. questioned the conduct of the plebiscite, specifically the inclusion of Cotabato City in the BARMM, and the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
However, the Court dismissed the petition and ruled that the Commission on Election (COMELEC) complied with the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) requirements during the 2019 plebiscite. (Johaira Sahidala/BIO)