BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government–BARMM)

COTABATO CITY –The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has welcomed a Supreme Court (SC) decision that dismissed a petition questioning the result of the 2019 plebiscite that included Cotabato City into the region.  

"We are elated to receive the decision of the SC affirming the inclusion of Cotabato City in the BARMM according to the 2019 plebiscite," Naguib Sinarimbo, the BARMM’s interior minister and spokesperson, said Friday.

"As we have been saying, the people have spoken. And now the SC has affirmed that popular voice of our people. In the end, it will always be our people who will win," Sinarimbo, a lawyer, added.

In its Jan. 10, 2023 ruling, the SC upheld the inclusion of Cotabato City in BARMM after the Jan. 21, 2019 plebiscite showed 38,682 individuals voted in favor of the inclusion, while 24,994 individuals were against it.

“Subsequently, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared the ratification of the Organic Law and the incorporation of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” the SC said in a press statement released Thursday.

The SC said Amil P. Sula, Gaspar S. Asi, and Hussein K. Malik, Sr. filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, with an Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction on Feb. 28, 2019 before the SC against the Comelec, in its official capacity as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers.

The petition questioned the conduct of the plebiscite, the inclusion of Cotabato City in the BARMM, and the ratification of the organic law.

In dismissing the petition, the SC ruled that the poll body complied with the requirements of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in conducting a plebiscite.

The decision emphasized the constitutional mandate of the Comelec to guarantee the proper exercise of the right of suffrage which the SC will not interfere with if there is no grave abuse of discretion.

The high tribunal also said the petitioners failed to substantiate with the necessary evidence their allegations of fraud in the conduct of the plebiscite.

“The mere allegation that the inclusion of Cotabato City in the newly-formed BARMM was not the true intention of the voters of Cotabato City will not persuade this court to overturn the actions of the Comelec,” the SC ruling stated. (PNA)