Maguindanao now split into North, South

September 20, 2022

More or less 1,342,179 residents of 36 municipalities in the 9,968.31-square kilometer Maguindanao province will now have to be part of two independent provinces — either Maguindanao del Norte or Maguindanao del Sur.

A total of 706,558 residents or 99.27 of the total 711,767 who cast their votes in the 17 September plebiscite agreed to the proposed geographical division of the Maguindanao province.

Data from the Commission on Elections showed a high voter turnout of 711,767 or 86.93 percent of the 818,790 registered voters from 508 barangays.

Based on Republic Act 11550 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao signed by then-President Rodrigo R. Duterte on 27 May 2021, 12 municipalities will make up Maguindanao del Norte while the remaining 24 towns will form Maguindanao del Sur.

The composition of Maguindanao del Norte includes the towns of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura and Talitay.

The Maguindanao del Sur, on the other hand, consists of 24 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, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajan Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Sharif Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan and South Upi.

The capital towns and seats of the government of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao Sur shall be located in the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Buluan, respectively.

The division of the Maguindanao province was earlier proposed by former First District of Maguindanao Representative, Bai Sandra Sema, through House Bill 5185 or An Act Creating the Province of Maguindanao North, which sought to re-create, with certain modifications of the short-lived province of Shariff Kabunsuan that existed from 2006 to 2008 under the then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The creation of Shariff Kabunsuan was created under the autonomy of the ARMM as recognized by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. However, this was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the Philippines stating the creation of the province is vested only to Congress as provided by the law.

House Bill 4840 proposed the creation of Western Mindanao province and House Bill 3405, created the Province of Maguindanao North, filed by former First District of Maguindanao Representative Datu Roonie Sinsuat and 2nd District of Maguindanao Toto Mangudadatu, respectively, before the 18th Congress in February 2020.

In June 2020, House Bill 6413, an act dividing the Maguindanao Province into North and South substitutes HB 3405 and HB 4840, also co-authored by Sinsuat and Mangudadatu, et al., and was approved by the 18th Congress.

Republic Act 11054 allows the parliament to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of municipalities or barangays and that the affected areas will be entitled to an appropriate share in the nation’s taxes or Internal Revenue Allotment.

The creation of Northern and Southern Maguindanao was eyed for improved political stability, economical boom, and social growth in the province.

Most participated plebiscite

Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco earlier said the plebiscite for Maguindnao “is the most participated-in plebiscite, province/city/municipality wide.”

The undivided Maguindanao province is considered the largest island in the Southern Philippines and it is located under the BARMM that is currently under a transition period.

Its people, commonly known as “Maguindanaons” or an ethnolinguistic group living primarily in south-central Mindanao, are recognized as the sixth largest Filipino ethnic group in the country.

Maguindanaons, which means people of the flood plain, are known for their distinct weaving culture, visual arts and native delicacies. Most of them follow standard Islamic beliefs and practices.

Most Maguindanaons are notably residing around the cities in the central Mindanao River basin within the municipalities Maganoy, Datu Piang, Dinaig and Buluan.

The Maguindanao tribe is divided into two principal groups, each with its dialect and traditional location, called Tau-as-Lud (people of the lower valley) and the Tau-so-Laya (people of the upper valley).

Most of the population maintains an agricultural livelihood including rice, corn, and coconuts, with wet-rice farming predominating in the Maguindanao area.

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