By Ali G. Macabalang
Today’s long-awaited ceremonial turnover to the Bangsamoro government of supervision over this city began with meaningful activities highlighted by motorcycle-riding residents’ motorcade around major streets here in apparent desire for imminent benefits from the regional autonomous bureaucracy.
Several dozens of resident bikers paused briefly along the highway fronting the city hall here in what was described as a sort of prodding for the city leadership to tone down its dissent to supervision by the Bangsamoro government “for the sake of unity and cohesive community building.”
Chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), the motor riders wielded official flags of the Bangsaoro government all the way in parading in major city streets, including noticeably the highway fronting the city hall compound, according to the regional Bureau of Public Information (BPI).
It has been almost two years after majority voters here opted for inclusion in the Bangsamoro region territory on the Jan. 21, 2019 plebiscite, but city hall officials had been opposed to becoming under the supervision of the regional government until Malacanang compelled the city leadership to submit to authority today.
Among the riders mostly clad in green shirts reflective of the official color of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was Saudin Angas, a resident of Barangay Poblacion II here, who acknowledged initial benefits from the Office of Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and BARMM line agencies.
“This (turnover ceremony) is a milestone for Moro people. At last, the city is now officially part of the Bangsamoro region,” the BPI quoted Angas as saying in the Maguindanaon vernacular.
The riders’ green shirts bear the slogan – “Welcome home, Cotabato City!” and “Welcome Cotabato City to BARMM!” the BOI said.
Later today, national officials led by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Presidential Peace Adviser would turnover the city’s supervision to the regional bureaucracy, notably the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG-BARMM).
Police General Debold Sinas of the Philippine National Police and other military local brass were in town to witness the event, which their respective local elements tightly secured.
Chief Minister Ebrahim released a statement on Saturday, December 12, saying the Jan. 21 plebiscite for the city’s inclusion “revealed the will of the majority of the people in Cotabato City.”
In the statement, Ebrahim appealed for support and cooperation from the city leadership and populace, even as he vowed to provide the city optimum services that can “further boost” the city’s rise to progress.
Cotabato City is now the region’s third component city, the two others being Lamitan City in Basilan, and Lanao del Sur’s capital Marawi City.
This city has been the regional administrative seat of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), yet it was not official part of the 29-year old autonomous region because its electorate voted for exclusion during the plebiscites in 1989 and 2001.
But on January 21, 2019, a majority of 36,682 residents of Cotabato City voted in favor of joining the new region called Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in R.A. 11054, which was ratified also on the same poll day. (AGM)