MANILA, Philippines – A single Maguindanao entity will be no more, after nearly all participating voters in the province favored the split of the southern Philippine province into two.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman Rex Laudiangco announced on Sunday afternoon, September 18, that based on the official, final tally, 706,558 voters or 99.27% of participants answered “yes” to the question, “Do you agree to divide the province of Maguindanao into two separate provinces to be known as Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, in accordance with Republic Act No. 11550?”
A total of 5,209 voters – accounting for 0.73% – wrote “no.”
The voter turnout for the plebiscite was 86.93%, which is the second highest turnout in a province-wide plebiscite in the Philippines.
“People are not afraid to cast their votes. They trust the process so much,” Comelec Chairman George Garcia said.
The plebiscite’s success marks the end of the long and winding journey of Maguindanao residents to fulfill a dream to divide the province, the 11th largest in the Philippines in terms of land size.
In 2006, what was then the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao tried to form the province of Shariff Kabunsuan from the 10 municipalities in Maguindanao, and while the referendum was successful, the new province was short-lived after a Supreme Court ruling found its creation unconstitutional.
The circumstances this time are different, since the proposed split of Maguindanao went through Congress, before getting the coveted signature of then-president Rodrigo Duterte in 2021. The outcome of the plebiscite conducted on Saturday, September 17, essentially ratified the law.
The split, advocates have said, would allow citizens to have better access to basic health services such as education, health care, and transportation, since there will be two provincial governments.
Under the transitory provisions of RA 11550, Maguindanao Vice Governor Ainee Sinsuat will become Maguindanao del Norte’s first governor. Governor Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, meanwhile, will lead Maguindanao del Sur.
Once the governors, vice governors, and majority of the provincial board members assume office, appointive positions in the provincial governments must be filled within 60 days. – Rappler.com