THE SUPREME Court (SC) has upheld the results of the 2019 plebiscite that included Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The High Court unanimously dismissed a petition that alleged fraud during the electoral exercise due to lack of evidence, it said in a statement on Thursday.
“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 (Comelec),” it said in the ruling.
The tribunal has yet to upload a copy of the decision on its website.
Comelec had complied with the requirements of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in conducting the plebiscite and did not abuse its discretion, the tribunal said.
The petition was filed by members of the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers in Cotabato City, which sought an injunction on the results.
In 2019, a total of 38,682 residents — comprising a majority — voted in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which included Cotabato City in the new Bangsamoro region.
The city, although geographically within Maguindanao province that was already part of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was previously under the SOCCSKSARGEN region.
The ARMM’s headquarters, now the Bangsamoro Government Center, is within Cotabato City.
The new BARMM, borne out of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has expanded political and financial autonomy.
In the May 2022 national and local elections, members of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, the MILF’s political party, won the top seats and a majority of the council in Cotabato City. — John Victor D. Ordoñez