The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to release within the week its legal opinion on who should govern Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur after a plebiscite supported a division of the entire province into two, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said Monday.
In a radio interview, Garcia said they were refraining from giving their opinion on the “very sensitive” matter as they wanted to focus first on the Maguindanao plebiscite held on Saturday.
“What I can assure you is that the current governor is still the governor of one province. People in Maguindanao should await who will be the governor of the other province,” he said in Filipino.
Gov. Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu is the current governor of unified Maguindanao, having beaten former governor and congressman Esmael Mangudadatu in the May 9 elections.
“Expect that we will release it in the next few days. We were asked for a legal opinion or explanation about who will sit as government officials in the newly created province and in the other province,” Garcia said.
Based on the official plebiscite municipal canvass of votes provided by the Comelec on the Maguindanao plebiscite, 706,558 or 99.27 percent voted in favor of splitting the province in accordance with Republic Act No. 1150.
Meanwhile, 5,209 or 0.73 percent voted “no” to the proposition.
Now that Maguindanao has been split into two, Garcia explained that Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur will have their own legal personalities, which will then require the appointment of government officials.
“It needs to be discussed how much IRA or Internal Revenue Allotment will be given by the new province, for example. At the same time, who will shoulder the former province’s debts if there are any?” he said.
Garcia said residents of the two provinces will later on get a chance to vote for new local government officials during the 2025 midterm elections.
Acting poll spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said Sunday that the Maguindanao plebiscite posed the second highest voter turnout for province-wide plebiscites, with over 700,000 voters or 80.84 percent.
It was also the most participated-in plebiscite province-wide in terms of total number of registered voters and total number of voters who actually voted, he added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is gearing up for the creation of two new police offices following last weekend’s Maguindanao plebiscite.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said he had already directed the Directorate for Plans headed by Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac to prepare the restructuring and reorganization of the police offices for Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
“The proposal to have two new provinces from Maguindanao has been officially ratified through a peaceful plebiscite that voted an overwhelming approval of the measure,” Azurin said.
With this prospect of having yet another political subdivision in the geographical landscape, the PNP will need to adjust accordingly to the letter and intent of Section 25 of Republic Act 6975 that provides. At the provincial level, there shall be a PNP office, each headed by a provincial director.”
Azurin said the PNP’s preparations include the creation of a staffing pattern for each of the new Police Provincial Offices that would be created, as well as the absorption of subordinate municipal police stations and provincial mobile force companies.
He said the successful plebiscite shows that the province is ready to embrace efforts toward further development.
Maguindanao del Norte will be made up of the towns of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay.
Maguindanao del Sur will be composed of the municipalities of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.
The capital towns of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur are the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Buluan, respectively.
Also on Tuesday, Senator Francis Tolentino said he is optimistic that the division of Maguindanao will accelerate the economic, political, and social development of the provinces.
Tolentino, the former chairman of the Senate committee on local government in the 18th Congress, sponsored the bill that proposed the division of the province of Maguindanao.
He said the division of Maguindanao will also result in the efficient delivery of government services.