OPINION: Reap what you sow!


by Ali G. Macabalang

THERE is a proverbial saying that “what you sow is what you reap.

According to data I have gathered, this adage holds true in the confusing political climate besetting Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, both local government units born out of R.A. 11550 of 2021.

The problem, characterized by conflicting legal interpretations between the camp of then one Maguindanao Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and quarters led by officials of the Bangsamoro autonomous government, could have not surfaced if the original date of plebiscite set in R. A. 11550 was followed.

The creation of Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte was initiated in the House of Representatives in 2019 by then Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and 1st District Rep. Ronnie Sinsuat Sr. The House approved the enabling bill on Feb. 27, 2020.

Senator Francis Tolentino co-sponsored the House Bill into the Senate, with the strong support of Senator Miguel Zubiri. The bill was amended by the Senate on March 9, 2021. The amendments were concurred in by the House on March 22, 2021.

Then President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the bill on May 27, 2021. The Maguindanao provincial government later stated it had set aside P120-million for the conduct of a plebiscite to ratify the law. The edict mandated that the Commission on Election to schedule the plebiscite around August 2021.

But the COMELEC through a minute resolution postponed the conduct of the plebiscite until after the 2022 general election, citing among other reasons the need for focal preparation in the election of national and local officials. The postponement was allegedly instigated by the camp of Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu.

Reliable sources claimed that Rep. Toto Mangudadatu, who was bidding to return to the gubernatorial post he held for three terms from 2010 to 2019, would find a slim chance against reelection-seeking Mariam in an election across the 36-town undivided Maguindanao. The camp of the lady governor, who defeated the former lawmaker in the May 9, 2022 gubernatorial race, had not commented on the allegation.

On June 22, 2022, the COMELEC en banc approved the date for the plebiscite on September 17, 2022, to ratify the law dividing the province into Maguindanao del Norte (with 12 component towns) and Maguindanao del Sur (with 24 towns).

The law was overwhelmingly ratified by more than 95 percent of the huge number of voters that turned out and voted during the plebiscite day.

The heavy voters’ turnout and overwhelming ratification of the law were attributed to the lack of an opposition against the provincial split, with both the contending quarters of the “Family Alliance” led by Gov. Sangki-Mangudadatu and the United Bangsamoro Justice Party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front campaigning for affirmative votes.

Even the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotabato led by Prelate Angelito Lampon encouraged mass turnout, sans any preference for or against the provincial split. But he had reportedly stated that what would happen next, if the new provincial officials will be elected or appointed, “is more dangerous”.

After the plebiscite, COMELEC Chairman George Garcia reportedly said that the poll body would not participate in determining who would be the new officials, saying that under the Local Government Code, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) would be the one deciding.

In October 2022, Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and Ainee Limbona-Sinsuat, citing their May 9 electoral mandates as governor and vice governor, assumed offices as governors of Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte, respectively.

But the Bangsamoro autonomous regional government has refused to recognize the officials, taking note the “legal controversy” arising from postponement of the plebiscite.

Last April 5, President Bongbong Marcos appointed Abdulraof Macacua, outgoing Bangsamoro regional minister, and Sangki-Mangudadatu as OIC-governors for the northern and southern provinces, respectively.

On April 9, Sangki-Mangudadatu went on an online broadcast, airing her statement to interpose “strong” objection to the Presidential appointments, and appeal to the Chief Executive to reconsider his decision.

On the other hand, Macacua opted to give up promptly his post as regional senior minister and eventually his own membership in the interim regional parliament in order to focus on Maguindanao del Norte.

Pledging to make Maguindanao del Norte the “best” province in the regional autonomous region, Macacua urged dissenting quarters to bring their complaint to the Supreme Court. He vowed to step down if the court and proper authorities would nullify his designation.

The “legal controversy” as of press time continued to snowball in the traditional and social media. I believe the trend was becoming a setback in any efforts meant to bring the two new provinces to greater heights.

It is just ironical that the political quarter that purportedly instigated the deferment of the original date of plebiscite is now squawking against the outcome of what it sowed. (Comments can be sent to alimac.bulletin@gmail.com.)


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