Cotabato City has new mayor and vice mayor

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Cotabato City, Philippines

The political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made history with the election of its candidates for mayor and vice mayor here, defeating rivals in a campaign viewed by many as an uphill struggle.

The mayoral candidate of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), Bruce Dela Cruz Matabalao, was proclaimed Tuesday night by city poll officials at the Session Hall of the Sangguniang Panglunsod in the city.

Matabalao defeated in the May 9 mayoral race the re-electionist Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, a vocal critic of the MILF-led Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Guiani-Sayadi even contested via the judiciary the city’s fusion into the core territory of BARMM, as a result of a 2019 plebiscite for the ratification of its regional charter that paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro government.

The creation in 2019 of BARMM, whose regional capitol is not too distant from the office of Guiani-Sayadi, is a product of 22 years of peace talks between Malacañang and the MILF.

City poll officials also proclaimed on Tuesday night Butch Abu as elected vice mayor for Cotabato City, having garnered more votes than what re-electionist Vice Mayor Graham Dumama got during Monday’s electoral exercise.

Supporters of Matabalao and Abu are now looking forward to a massive implementation of infrastructure and socio-economic projects in all of Cotabato City’s 37 barangays by the BARMM government via its public works ministry.

Originally under Administrative Region 12, Cotabato City is inside Maguindanao province, which is under the Bangsamoro region.

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Residents voted against the inclusion of their barangays in the territory of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during a plebiscite in 1991.

The ARMM was replaced with a more politically and administratively-empowered BARMM in early 2019 after voters in the provinces and cities now under its jurisdiction voted in favor of its creation via a referendum. (John Unson)

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