Peaceful polls in 63 supposedly `flashpoint’ Moro barangays

COTABATO CITY (John Unson, Nov. 8, 2023) —- There are 63 Bangsamoro barangays in Cotabato province in Region 12 where hostilities were expected during the October 30 elections, but none in any of those so-called “flashpoint areas” happened at all.The 63 barangays in Cotabato province, whose residents voted in favor of the inclusion of their villages into the territory of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during a plebiscite in 2019, are now grouped as BARMM’s Special Geographic Area, or SGA.Local executives in different Cotabato towns said on Wednesday that it was for the prior security dialogues among officials of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, the Cotabato Provincial Police Office, barangay leaders and traditional Moro datus that catalyzed the unexpected peace and calm in all of the 63 SGA barangays during the October 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. Peaceful electionsMayor Rolly Sacdalan of Midsayap town in Cotabato said their municipal police force has not received any report of election-related security problems during the actual polling day in any of the SGA barangays in their municipality.“For that we are grateful to the police, the military and our Provincial Peace and Order Council,” Sacdalan said on Wednesday. He was referring to their multi-sector, inter-agency PPOC, the Police Regional Office-13 and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division led by Major Gen. Alex Rillera.Brig. Donald Gumiran, commander of the 602nd Brigade under 6th ID, said their election security missions in the SGA barangays, supervised by the Commission on Elections, were supported by the BARMM local government ministry, field commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front, among them Muslimin Sema, who is current Bangsamoro labor and employment minister.Respect for barangay governmentsA 56-year-old voter in Pikit town in Cotabato, Blao Kalim Anding, said he and his relatives supported the election security missions of the Army, the police and the Comelec owing to the presence now of functional barangay governments that have what is for them iconic two-storey offices built in recent months by the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government-BARMM.“It is an absolute disrespect for these barangay governments being patronized by the MILG-BARMM now directly serving us to do anything that can derail the October 30 elections and, for that matter, all other elections in the coming years.” Anding said in Filipino, in a heavy Maguindanaon accent.Gumiran said among those who had supported their election security duties were two members of the 80-seat BARMM parliament, the physician-ophthalmologist Kadil Sinolinding, Jr. and Jaafar Apollo Mikhail Matalam. Support from BARMM parliament membersThe two BARMM parliament members belong to large Moro clans that have influential scions in SGA barangays in Cotabato’s adjoining Pikit, Kabacan and Carmen towns.Sinolinding had treated for free more than 2,000 indigent and underprivileged cataract and Pterygium patients in SGA villages in the three towns since his appointment by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr. as member of the BARMM parliament in August last year. “He requested the families of the patients he provided with supposedly costly free eye treatment and surgery to help us maintain law and order in their barangays during the October 30 elections and they responded to his request very positively,” Gumiran said. (JF Unson in Cotabato City)

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