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Moro sectors’ bet for North Cotabato governor defeats rival

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Kidapawan City, Philippines

Moro leaders are certain of more peace and development projects soon in Muslim areas in North Cotabato under a new governor who supported the crafting of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, who defeated re-electionist Gov. Nancy Catamco in the May 9 gubernatorial race in the province, campaigned for the ratification in 2019, via a plebisicte, of the BOL, the charter of the now three-year Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

There are 63 predominantly-Moro barangays in different North Cotabato towns that are now part of BARMM after local residents voted in favor of the fusion of their villages into the territory of the region during the 2019 BOL referendum.

“We are glad that our favored candidate for provincial governor made it,” a Moro member of the North Cotabato Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Kelly Antao, told reporters Saturday, referring to Mendoza.

Antao, who is identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is overseeing for the Bangsamoro government the 63 North Cotabato barangays under its jurisdiction.

Mendoza defeated Catamco, first-termer governor of North Cotabato, with a wide vote-lead.

She was voted for overwhelmingly by Muslims in the province, besides the votes she garnered from indigenous people and non-Moro settlers.

“We supported her candidacy for governor because we have seen how she reached out to Moro communities in North Cotabato while she was governor of the province from 2010 to 2019,” Romeo Sema, a BARMM regional parliament member, said.

Mendoza was elected provincial vice governor in May 2019, after a three-term stint as governor.

Sema, former labor minister of BARMM, is the vice chairman for political affairs of the Moro National Liberation Front that has members in North Cotabato that covers 17 towns and more than 40 barangays in its capital, Kidapawan City.

The MNLF and the MILF have separate peace deals with Malacañang but are cooperating in pushing the peace and socio-economic agenda of the fledgling Bangsamoro government forward.

Mendoza’s 25-year-old daughter, Samantha Santos, was elected Monday as representative of the 3rd congressional district of North Cotabato, defeating rivals Nelda Tejada and Rene Roldan.

Tejada is the wife of incumbent North Cotabato 3rd District Rep. Jose Tejada.

Santos finished a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology degree at the University of Melbourne in Australia in 2018.

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Supporters of Mendoza, among them municipal mayors, are certain that Santos, as member of the House of Representative, will focus on fostering religious and cultural solidarity among Muslims, Christians and non-Moro indigenous groups in North Cotabato.

Provincial poll officials separately proclaimed Mendoza and Santos as elected governor and congressional representative, respectively, on Wednesday at the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Barangay Amas here. (John Unson)

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