By Ferdinand Patinio

BARMM administration building in Cotabato City (Photo courtesy of the Bangsamoro Information Office)

MANILA – Residents of 63 villages in the special geographic area (SGA) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in North Cotabato province have voted to create eight municipalities on Saturday.

According to the plebiscite results provided by Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson George Garcia on Sunday showed 72,358 of the total 89,594 registered voters voted “Yes” to ratify the Bangsamoro Autonomy Act Nos. 41 to 48 creating eight towns in the BARMM province.

It said only 273 voters voted “no” while 27 opted to abstain for the creation of eight municipalities of Pahamuddin, Kadayangan, Nabalawag, Tugunan, Ligawasan, Malidegao, Old Kabakan, and Kapalawan, all in the province of North Cotabato.

The Commission reported 81.10 percent voters’ turnout or a total of 72,658 of the 89,594 registered voters from 63 barangays.

The poll body said the conduct of the plebiscites were peaceful and orderly through the “invaluable cooperation” of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the concerned local government units (LGUs).

The Comelec also commended the Bangsamoro people, particularly in the 8 newly established municipalities for standing united in their years-long aspiration to have their own local government and easier access to essential services since they voted to be included in the BARMM in the 2019 plebiscite.

The newly created municipality of Pahamuddin will be composed of Barangays Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Datu Mantil, Kadingilan, Lower Pangangkalan, Libungan Torreta, Matilac, Patot, Upper Pangangkalan, Lower Baquer, and Simsiman from the municipality of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Kadayangan, on the other hand, shall be composed of Barangays Central Labas, Kapinpilan, Malingao, Mudseng, Sambulawan, Tugal, and Tumbras from the municipality of Midsayap.

Nabalawag will be composed of Barangays Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kudarangan, Nabalawag, Olandang from the town of Midsayap and Dungguan from the municipality of Aleosan.

The Old Kaabakan will have Buluan, Nangaan, Sanggadong, Simbuhay, Simone, Pedtad, and Tamped as its barangays from the municipality of Kabacan.

Kapalawan will be composed of Barangays Kibayao, Kitulaan, Langogan, Manarapan, Nasapian, Pebpoloan, Tupig from the town of Carmen.

Malidegao will be comprised of Barangays Balungis, Batulawan, Fort Pikit, Gokotan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, Nunguan from the municipality of Pikit, North Cotabato.

Tugunan to be composed of Barangays Balong, Bualan, Lagunde, Macabual, Macasendeg, Manaulanan, Pamalian, Panicupan from the municipality of Pikit, and Tapodoc from the municipality of Aleosan.

Ligawasan will be composed of Barangays Bagoinged, Barungis, Bulol, Buliok, Gli-Gli, Kabasalan, and Rajamuda from Pikit town.

The Comelec earlier said the first local officials of the eight new municipalities will be elected in the May 2025 national and local elections.

People’s aspiration

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the huge turnout underscores the commitment of the people in the SGA to engage in the democratic process and help shape the future of the Bangsamoro.

“We are delighted to see such a high level of participation from our constituents in the SGA. This is a testament of the peoples’ aspiration for their barangays to be part of BARMM,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“This plebiscite is also a very good preparation for the first regular BARMM regional elections to be held in 2025,” he added.

He commended the Comelec as well as the security sector led by the AFP and PNP for ensuring the peaceful, orderly and smooth conduct of the plebiscite.

Galvez likewise expressed his gratitude to Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of North Cotabato, and to the leadership of the BARMM government. (with Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)