SC Upholds Plebiscite Including Cotabato City in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region
January 12, 2023
The Supreme Court En Banc in its January 10, 2023 deliberation, has upheld the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
On January 21, 2019, a plebiscite was conducted to determine whether Cotabato City should be included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Based on the Certificate of Canvass of Votes, 38,682 individuals voted in favor of the inclusion, while 24,994 individuals voted against it.
Subsequently, the Commission on Elections declared the ratification of the Organic Law and the incorporation of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Thereafter, Amil P. Sula, Gaspar S. Asi, and Hussein K. Malik, Sr. filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, with Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction on February 28, 2019 before the Supreme Court against the Commission on Elections, 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 Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and the ratification of the Organic Law.
In dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court ruled that the Commission on Elections complied with the requirements of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in conducting a plebiscite. The Decision emphasized the constitutional mandate of the Commission to guarantee the proper exercise of the right of suffrage which the Supreme Court will not interfere with if there is no grave abuse of discretion.
The Supreme Court also said that 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 Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was not the true intention of the voters of Cotabato City will not persuade this Court to overturn the actions of the Commission on Elections,” the Decision stated.
The vote was unanimous. Two Justices took no part and one Justice was on leave. There were no dissents.
FULL TEXT OF G.R. NO. 244587 dated January 10, 2023 at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/244587-amil-p-sula-gaspar-s-asi-and-hussien-k-malig-sr-vs-commission-on-elections-in-its-official-capacity-as-the-national-plebiscite-board-of-canvassers/