COTABATO CITY, Philippines — As the last ballot cast was counted in by the canvassers, it turned out that Cotabato City will be in for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Known as the “Crown Jewel” of the south, advocates for the inclusion of this city in BARMM reveled and in high spirits as the “Yes” voted dominated last Monday’s plebiscite.

A total of 36,682 voters carried on with their cause of incorporating Cotabato City into BARMM, defeating the 24,994 voters who signified opposition into its inclusion.

Data from the Commission on Elections revealed that a total of 61,676 constituents of this city cast their votes last Monday.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Murad Ebrahim told reporters in an interview that the result of the plebiscite signified “that the people have spoken and choose to side with the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) despite the very strong pressure from the opposition.”

It has been a public knowledge that Cotabato City is the only area in Central Mindanao that openly signified opposition to inclusion to BARMM.

Mayor, Atty. Frances Cynthia Guiani- Sayadi has been vocal of such opposition, saying that “many of the sectors in the city does not favor to the inclusion” raising issues on security among its people.

“There is a question to their capacity to govern its own people, so how can they control people of this city?” Mayor Guiani said.

Cotabato City became an independent component city after it refused to join Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites, and remained of Region XII (Soccsksargen).

Successful plebiscite

The poll body has earlier announced the success of the plebiscite except for Cotabato City.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez cited some problems in precincts in Cotabato City, including the late opening of voting precincts and the reported flying voters.

Jimenez also reported of the presence of armed members of MILF outside the designated polling precincts.

A blast also occurred a day before the electoral exercise when unidentified motorcycle-riding men hurled a grenade inside the compound of the residence of Judge Aniceto Rasalan.

Judge Rasalan is a vocal supporter of groups critical to the BOL.

Another grenade was also recovered by authorities outside the Rojas High School in Rosary Heights 2 here early morning on the day of the plebiscite.

Despite the incidents, Jimenez told reporters that Comelec has not received any election-related complaints.

He also admitted that they were informed of the various incidents of commotions on the day of the plebiscite.

Among the reports discussed by the media with Jimenez was the incident that took place at the Cotabato Institute where a 17-year-old resident of Guindulungan in Maguindanao was beaten by voters who accused him of being a flying voter.

Found in his possessions was his ID, indicating his age and residence.

The boy later disclosed to Mayor Guiani that he was instructed by a certain Ustadz Nasser to vote.

It came out that the boy was referring to Ustadz Nasser Daud, a MILF member and a resident of Bagua 2, Cotabato City.

Early celebration

On the day after all polling precincts were all closed at 5:00 pm, some individuals were seen shouting Allahu Akbar, an Islamic phrase that means “Allah (GOD) is the greatest” while raising their fists.

Some were roaming around the city in motorcycle and pick-up trucks waving flaglets to celebrate the victory of the MILF and supporters of BOL. (

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