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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday, August 22, that the possibility of holding a plebiscite for the approved eight towns within the Special Geographic Area (SGA) of the Bangsamoro region in Cotabato province simultaneously with the October 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections is slim.
Ray Sumalipao, the director of Comelec in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said the main challenge in organizing the plebiscite alongside the elections is the limited time, further complicated by the intricacies of the procurement process.
“It would be quite difficult given that we have only two months remaining, and considering the rigorous procedures involved in the country’s procurement law for the necessary forms, funds, and other required resources,” Sumalipao told Rappler.
Last week, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) approved regional laws for the creation of eight SGA towns in Cotabato province, emerging from the barangays that chose to be part of BARMM in 2019. The new BARMM-SGA towns are as follows:
- Old Kaabakan
The BTA said the plebiscite has been scheduled to be held simultaneously with the 2023 barangay and youth elections.
It said the plebiscite will be overseen by the Comelec through the Bangsamoro Electoral Office (BEO), with expenses to be covered by the Bangsamoro government.
Should the regional laws be ratified, they will mandate the regional government to allocate funds for the operation and administration of the new municipalities on a monthly basis until they start receiving their share of the national tax allotment.
“We are eagerly waiting for this. What we know the plebiscite will be conducted two months after the creation. Hopefully, this will coincide with the [barangay and SK] elections,” said Jabib Guiabar, the Kabacan SGA-BARMM cluster area coordinator.
The creation of the new towns has been a top priority for BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, aimed at enhancing the regional government’s ability to cater to the needs of residents in SGA villages within Cotabato province.
In 2019, a total of 63 villages from Cotabato province in the Soccsksargen region chose to join BARMM through a plebiscite. These villages are situated in the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigcawayan. – Rappler.com