Cotabato City should be part of BAR

Without preempting what the voters will write, yes or no, in their ballots on plebiscite day on January 21, 2019, it is our humblest and sincerest wish that Cotabato City should decide to be part of the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR). It has nothing to lose but everything to gain.  

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) contains provisions for the general interests of the people and is very inclusive: No sector is left out, especially the migrant settlers, indigenous people, women, traditional leaders, religious leaders, and the youth. Aside from share in the internal revenue allocation (IRA), Cotabato City will also partake of in the annual block, estimated to be from 70 to 80 billion annually, for the Bangsamoro Government, and is also entitled to get from the shares of the Bangsamoro Government in taxes, revenues, and other collections in the exploitation and utilization of mineral resources in the Bangsamoro.

Currently, Cotabato City, notwithstanding not being part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has benefitted tremendously from the huge volume of money circulating here; thanks to the money of the ARMM, influx of foreigners, sprouting of UN agencies, and other international non-government organizations (INGOs). As a consequence, big malls, restaurants, hotels, and banks are also on the rise. If the BAR, which is far bigger and more moneyed than the ARMM, is established and Cotabato City remains the capital, the more it reaps in benefits. It is an opportunity not open to other areas or cities in the ARMM.

The benchmark of 100,000 population necessary for the creation of one district, Cotabato City with a present population of 300,000 might be entitled or allocated at least two district representations in the Bangsamoro Parliament.

Geographically, Cotabato City is a natural component of Maguindanao province; it is located at the center, bounded in the north by Sultan Kudarat, in the south by Datu Odin Sinsuat, and in the east by Kabuntalan. Its source of water is either from Datu Odin Sinsuat or Sultan Kudarat.

In term of ethnicity, the tribal affiliation “Maguindanao” has its root in Cotabato City where a creek called “Maguindanao” still exists (but heavily polluted). It flows from the Catholic Cathedral down to the back of Tam’s Bakery. However, in more precise description, the ethic tribe got its nomenclature from a place in Cotabato City and environs which is flooded almost throughout the year; because, Maguindanao means “people of the flooded plain”.

Historically, the sultanate of Buayan (based in Buayan, Datu Piang) had its legitimacy also rooted in Cotabato City. Oral traditions say that out of the union of Sharif Kabunsuan and Putri Tunina, the adopted sister of Rajah Mamalu and Rajah Tabunaway, came three daughters, two of whom were married to the two sons of Rajah Buayan. From these unions came into being the Sultanate of Buayan, because legitimacy to rule in the traditions of Maguindanao and Sulu, and to a certain extent, also Maranao, is the presence of so-called royal blood in these native rulers who inherited it from the prophet of Islam (pbuh).

One can imagine, therefore, the strong yearning, if not outright hurting, if Cotabato City is detached from the territory of the Bangsamoro Government.

Cotabato City, once the center of conflict in 1974-1975, will become the hub of peace, progress, and cooperation amongst its diverse population, because a yes vote is a vote for peace, justice, and development, while a no vote is vote for uncertainty.

It is not true to say that Cotabato City had never been affected by the war in Mindanao. In fact, hard battles were fought here; PC Hill was hit by mortar barrages many times. However, hardest hit places were Biniruan (now Poblacion 4), Kakar (now Poblacion 8) Bubong (now Kalanganan 11), and Pagalamatan (now Tamontaka 3); even the vicinity of Notre Dame University was a scene of bitter fighting. The fiercest, however, was fought in Biniruan on July 14, 1974. Government troops suffered over 100 dead including one army major, and lost 86 high caliber firearms.

At present, Cotabato City has 116,228 registered voters. Out of these, 64.77% are Muslims and 35.33% are Christians.

We urge everyone to vote wisely on the basis of what is good for the people (of Cotabato City). LEADERS COME AND GO!