Supreme Court upholds 2019 plebiscite results including Cotabato City in BARMM

COTABATO CITY – The Supreme Court En Banc upheld in its January 10, 2023 deliberation the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

In the plebiscite conducted on Jan. 21, 2019 to determine whether Cotabato City should be included in the BARMM, the Certificate of Canvass of Votes showed that “38,682 individuals voted in favor of the inclusion, while 24,994 individuals voted against it.”

“Subsequently, the Commission on Elections declared the ratification of the Organic Law and the incorporation of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” the Supreme Court said in a statement.

The Supreme Court said “Amil P. Sula, Gaspar S. Asi, and Hussein K. Malik Sr. filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, with Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction on February 28, 2019 before the Supreme Court against the Commission on Elections, in its official capacity as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers.” 

“The petition questioned the conduct of the plebiscite, the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and the ratification of the Organic Law,” the Supreme Court said.

“In dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court ruled that the Commission on Elections complied with the requirements of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in conducting a plebiscite. The Decision emphasized the constitutional mandate of the Commission to guarantee the proper exercise of the right of suffrage which the Supreme Court will not interfere with if there is no grave abuse of discretion,” Supreme Court Public Information Office said.

The Supreme Court Decision claimed that “the mere allegation that the inclusion of Cotabato City in the newly-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was not the true intention of the voters of Cotabato City will not persuade this Court to overturn the actions of the Commission on Elections.” 

According to the High Tribunal, “the petitioners failed to substantiate with the necessary evidence their allegations of fraud in the conduct of the plebiscite.”

“The vote was unanimous. Two Justices took no part and one Justice was on leave. There were no dissents,” the Supreme Court said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM Spokesperson and, Interior and Local Government Minister said “we are elated to receive the decision of the Supreme Court affirming the inclusion of Cotabato City in the BARMM pursuant to the 2019 plebiscite.”

“We thank our people for expressing their popular will in the 2019 plebiscite to be part of the Bangsamoro,” Sinarimbo said.

“As we have been saying, the people have spoken. And now the Supreme Court has affirmed that popular voice of our people. In the end, it will always be our people who will win,” Sinarimbo said further.