TRO sought vs. rule barring SGA-BARMM voters from local polls

A provincial board member in North Cotabato has sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court (SC) against a Commission on Elections (Comelec) minute resolution barring voters in 63 villages in the province that joined the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from electing local officials in the May 9, 2022 elections.

The Comelec made public Minute Resolution Number 21-0953 on January 3 that bars some 200,000 registered voters in North Cotabato’s 63 villages from electing candidates for mayor, vice-mayor, town councilors, governor, vice governor, board members, and a House representative.

The voters belonged to villages in North Cotabato under the BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA-BARMM).

“I appeal to all the constituents of 63 villages in North Cotabato province to support this petition until it is granted so they will not be deprived of their rights to elect leaders,” North Cotabato Board Member (BM) Dulian Sultan said in a statement Tuesday.

Sultan personally submitted her petition for a TRO before the SC on Monday, claiming it deprived registered voters of their right of suffrage that is guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution.

She was joined in the petition by her husband, Mayor Sumulong Sultan of Pikit, North Cotabato, and six other local officials.

BM Sultan, also president of North Cotabato Liga ng mga Barangay that made her an ex-officio member of the provincial council, believed the voters must be allowed to exercise their right to suffrage.

Pikit has 22 of its 42 villages that opted to join the BARMM.

Earlier, the BARMM government also sought reconsideration by the Comelec claiming that SGA-BARMM voters remained, in the meantime, in their original mother-towns.

Minister Naguib G. Sinarimbo of Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) – BARMM noted that while the 63 barangays from North Cotabato are now part of the BARMM and no longer under Region 12, they have not been reconstituted into appropriate local government units (LGUs) pursuant to the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

He pointed out that that the Comelec resolution deprives over 200,000 SGA constituents of their right to suffrage and equal protection of the law.

Sinarimbo, the concurrent BARMM spokesperson, said in the computation of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of North Cotabato and respective SGA municipalities, the population, land area, and income of the 63 barangays still form part of North Cotabato and their municipalities, hence constituents are still entitled to be represented and their voices heard.

Based on the Comelec ruling, constituents of SGA are only allowed to vote for the national positions pending the determination of the constituent’s local government units until the holding of the 2022 elections.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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