BARMM acquires authority over Cotabato City, 63 NorCot villages

By Ali G. Macabalang

SUPERVISION AUTHORITY TURN-OVER. DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano and MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo sign documents stipulating the transfer of supervision authority over the LGUs of Cotabato City and 63 barangays in North Cotabato to the BARMM government as other national and regional officials led by Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim looked on from distance at a formal ceremony in the city on Tuesday, Dec. 15. (AGM )

COTABATO CITY

The interim governance of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has officially acquired supervision authority over the local government units of this city and the 63 barangays in North Cotabato.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, accompanied by other key national officials, turned over the enabling authority to his counterpart in BARMM, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, in symbolic rites at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center inside the regional government compound here on Tuesday.

Sec. Año handed over to Sinarimbo, BARMM’s Minister of Interior and Local Government (MILG), the documents on programs and projects, properties and assets, and records of the DILG Cotabato field office alongside the symbolic key of supervision.

He later told reporters that the turnover rites officially placed the LGUs of this city and 63 villages in North Cotabato under the authority of the BARMM government, particularly the MILG. The process will entail no layoff because DILG personnel in the city can either join the MILG or transfer to areas outside autonomy, he hinted.

In his acceptance speech and at the press conference, Minister Sinarimbo assured that the regional bureaucracy via his ministry will exercise authority over the newly devolved LGUs with utmost care reflective of Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for self-determination, and participative moral governance.

As an initial step, Siramibo said, he will immediately assign for the city government three of their local government operations’ officers (LGOOs) extensively trained in the DILG’s Development Academy to ensure that national ideals would be preserved in the supervision process.  

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Police Chief Debold Sinas, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. represented by Undersecretary David Deciano, and Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez represented via zoom by Undersecretary Bayani Agabin graced the ceremony, and delivered messages committing support to the BARMM government operations to help realize the Bangsamoro’s age-old quest for self-determination.

DILG Undersecretary Marjorie Jalosjos also delivered a speech, expounding Sec. Año’s pronouncement about the essence of regional authority as a legal mandate under R.A. 11054 (BARMM’s charter) and the government’s peace accords in 2013 and 2014 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Fair share from autonomy

BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim led host officials at the ceremony, delivering a speech welcoming the LGUs of this city and the 63 villages to the folds of regional autonomy, and reiterating commitment for intensified attention to them with assured fair share from resources generated in the areas of autonomy.

“We will make sure that BARMM’s development will (radiate) in the city, being its administrative capital and celebrate the diversity it has with no constituency left behind regardless of faith, ethnicity or (political) affiliation,” Ebrahim said.

He acknowledged that “there were differences in opinions, principles and apprehensions that paint a stark contrast to the result of historic plebiscite,” Ebrahim said, referring to the divisive debate over the supervision turnover issue in the context of the ARMM Charter and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

For his part, BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, who is also cho-chair of the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB), underscored in his speech the importance of robust partnership between BARMM and Cotabato City to settle “provoking” thoughts about the city’s vote for inclusion in regional autonomy and supervision authority turnover.

The individual successes of the city and the regional governments would be meaningless without cohesion, echoing the MILF’s description of the city as the “jewel” of autonomy and “cradle” of age-old struggle for self-determination, Iqbal said.

BARMM Executive Secretary Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, concurrent energy and environment minister, also delivered a rather cordial message to recollect how the national government and MILF jointly pooled forces to persuade Cotabato City voters’ into joining the new autonomy for Bangsamoro.

Historic mandate

Majority voting residents in this city and 63 barangays in five North Cotabato towns opted for inclusion in the BARMM territory through the plebiscites held on January 21 and February 6, 2019 for the ratification of R.A. 11054, otherwise known as Basic Organic Law (BOL) for BARMM. The President signed the edict passed by Congress in July, 2018.

The provincial government had turned over supervision authority over its 63 constituent villages to the Bangsamoro government on Nov. 20, 2019. But city hall officials refused to follow suit, citing the pendency of City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi’s electoral protest questioning parts of the plebiscite proceedings.

The mayors of five North Cotabato towns comprising the 63 autonomy-opting barangays were led at Tuesday’s event here by Provincial Administrator Efren Piñol, representing Governor Nancy Catamco.  

No representative from the city hall attended the event, even as City Administrator Dr. Danda Juanday was quoted as saying in a report that their attendance may be interpreted as desistance from the city mayor’s standing protest.   

Tuesday’s formal ceremony followed a motorcade of several green shirt-clad bike riders parading along major roads here and waiving the official flag of the BARMM government.

The enthusiasm among the “Allahu Akbar” chanting bikers drew a counter from some residents wearing red shirts that converged in some areas here in support of the dissenting stance pursued by the city mayor. (AGM)

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