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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has appointed a governor for the new province of Maguindanao del Norte, but it’s not Fatima Ainee Sinsuat, the last vice governor of the larger and once undivided Maguindanao province.
Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua took his oath of office as officer-in-charge of the provincial government before Marcos in Malacanang at 10 am on Wednesday, April 5, confirmed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo.
Before his appointment as Maguindanao del Norte’s leader, Macacua served as senior minister of the Bangsamoro region.
Macacua also served as chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
His appointment and oath-taking were greeted by many well-wishers in Cotabato City, the seat of the regional government, and on social media.
On its website, the Presidential Communications Office said Macacua and Mariam Mangudadatu, the governor of the old Maguindanao, were named as officers-in-charge (OICs) of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, respectively.
Marcos also named Sinsuat as acting vice governor of Maguindanao del Norte, and Nathaniel Sangacala Midtimbang as acting vice governor of Maguindanao del Sur.
The PCO said Marcos chose Macacua to lead Maguindanao del Norte as it transitions into a newly created Bangsamoro province.
As OIC governor, Macacua was given the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the province.
“Macacua’s appointment is seen as a demonstration of this administration’s commitment to the mainstreaming of the peace process, as well as the continued engagement of the Bangsamoro community to ensure the gains of democracy, peace, and development in the region,” read part of the PCO press release.
Sinsuat, the old Maguindanao’s vice governor, was initially thought to be the new province’s governor. She has assumed office and started organizing the new provincial government in Datu Odin Sinsuat town where her husband is the town mayor, but complained that the national government withheld funds from them.
Sinsuat took her oath as the governor of the province on October 13, 2022 with Maguindanao provincial board member Sharifudin Mastura as her vice governor.
They assumed office on January 10, invoking Republic Act 11550, but BARMM’s Interior Ministry did not recognize them.
Maguindanao del Norte was carved out of the old Maguindanao province by a law that was ratified during a plebiscite on September 17, 2022.
An overwhelming majority of voters in Maguindanao province agreed to divide the area into two separate provinces, Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, based on Republic Act No. 11550.
More than 700,000 voters or about 99.27% favored the split while only 5,209 voters rejected it.
The plebiscite recorded a high voter turnout of 86.93%, marking the second-highest turnout in a province-wide plebiscite in the country to date.
The towns under the Maguindanao del Norte territory are Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.