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Editorial: The Cotabato Question

Up to this moment perhaps, residents of Cotabato City who are opposing the inclusion of their place in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao still don’t know what hit them. The final result of the plebiscite in the city, to borrow a sports parlance, was an upset: 36,682 yes votes and 24,994 no votes.

Some attributed the unexpected win of the yes vote to the “intimidating” sight of MILF members riding around the city on the eve of the plebiscite. Though unarmed, their massive presence was enough to convey their determination to win in the “crown jewel” of Mindanao’s Moro-dominated areas. They may not have intended to scare the residents who would have voted no, but with the spate of explosions that rocked the city since New Year ’s Eve and the heated word war over the plebiscite, many would rather play it safe, that is, shun the polls.
All that, however, is now the proverbial water under the bridge. The result may be unacceptable and tragic for many Cotabato residents, but all they can do is accept the outcome and contribute what they can to make the emerging regional setup work. (Or pray that the Supreme Court grant the petition against the Bangsamoro Law.) To continue bickering and employ obstructionism will only worsen the problems being faced by the Bangsamoro as the country’s poorest region, a situation that may make it another “failed experiment.”
On the part of the MILF leadership, they need to rein in their members too. Some reporters who covered the plebiscite in Cotabato City said that after the yes vote overtook the no vote some MILF members declared “Amin na ito” (This is ours now) referring to the city. It’s as if the plebiscite was a siege clothed in democratic pretensions.
Cotabato City may be the Bangsamoro’s crown jewel. But it must not be treated as something that is up for grabs. Or is it? (BM)

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