Marcos, local officials, did they see Maguindanao split in the bag even before the plebiscite?

Days before the plebiscite, Marcos orders his staff to schedule the swearing-in of Maguindanao officials in Malacañang, as confidence in the likelihood of ratification is bolstered by the absence of opposition.

Have President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and local officials already seen the ratification of the 2021 law that created two provinces of Maguindanao in the bag, so much so that they have already agreed on a benefit of oath in Malacañang a few days before the real plebiscite on Saturday September 17?

On Thursday, September 15, Marcos met with local officials and then instructed his staff to make arrangements for Maguindanao Vice Governor Ainee Sinsuat and her group’s swearing-in at Malacañang.

Sinsuat would automatically become governor if the results of the just-concluded Maguindanao plebiscite favor the ratification of Republic Act No. 11550, the 2021 law that bisected the roughly 15,000 square kilometer province. (LIVE UPDATE AND RESULTS: Maguindanao plebiscite)

Electoral Commission Chairman George Garcia said the results of the plebiscite would be known on Sunday, September 18.

Officials’ confidence in the likelihood of ratification was due to the absence of opposition – even Maguindanao’s belligerent political families had campaigned for a yes vote.

Maguindanao provincial administrator Cyrus Torreña said earlier that no group had campaigned against the ratification of the 2021 law.

“We haven’t heard any opposition,” Sinsuat said after voting on Saturday.

Ratification would make Maguindanao’s first female governor, Mariam Mangudadatu, the chief executive of the province of Maguindanao del Sur, while Sinsuat would go down in history as the first governor of Maguindanao del Norte.

The deputy governor’s husband, Lester, the town mayor of Datu Odin Sinsuat, said it was Marcos who summoned them for a meeting over lunch in Cotabato on Thursday – the same day the president spoke a speech at a gathering of Bangsamoro officials in the city.

Lester, who had served as vice governor of Maguindanao, said the president ordered his staff to schedule Malacañang’s swearing-in after being asked if a new group of local officials could be sworn in before him.

In the meeting with Marcos, the Sinsuats were accompanied by Maguindanao 1st District Representative Dimple Mastura, Maguindanao Provincial Council Member Nathaniel Midtimbang, Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tucao Mastura and Vice Mayor Shameem Mastura.

A Maguindanao split is long over. It was just a matter of time. In 2006, his constituents ratified a law from the former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that carved out 10 of their towns to form Shariff Kabunsuan Province.

Two years later, the Supreme Court struck down the ARMM law as unconstitutional and killed two-year-old Shariff Kabunsuan in the process.

Interestingly, Thursday’s meeting did not include Mangudadatu or any member of his political family. The Mangudadatus are known supporters of Marcos in Maguindanao and in the province of Sultan Kudarat, where family members have alternately served as governors.

It is said that Marcos’ decision to extend the tenure of Acting Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim did not sit well with the Mangudadatus. The governor’s husband, former governor of Sultan Kudarat, Suharto Mangudadatu, had set his sights on the leadership of the Bangsamoro region after the success of Marcos’ presidential campaign.

Sinsuat projects

Vice Governor Sinsuat said she and other officials who met with Marcos were “thrilled” and that the president was “pleased” with Maguindanao’s planned split.

Early on, Sinsuat stated that his plans included establishing the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat as the seat of a new provincial government based on RA 11550 and building a capital city.

She told Cotabato-based Bandera TV and Radio that the current provincial government of Maguindanao has no property in the town where a new provincial capital could be built.

Sinsuat said it will also set up provincial satellite offices in at least two towns included in the territory of Maguindanao del Norte. She and her husband were convinced that the voters were in favor of the ratification of the law during the plebiscite which had just been held.

Sinsuat also said the plebiscite went “very well” and she hoped the results would show overwhelming yes votes.

Her husband Lester said they were monitoring voter turnout in several cities and noted that the electoral trend favored the creation of the two provinces of Maguindanao.

He said he was looking forward to seeing his city become a provincial center as it would mean “more investment and more progress” for the city of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

Lahat mabubuhay (Everyone will improve their lot),” the mayor said. – Rappler.com


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