Shariff Kabunsuan province abolished

- John Unson -

COTABATO CITY – Officials of the now defunct Shariff Kabunsuan are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s nullification of the newly created province for being “unconstitutional.”

The Supreme Court on Friday denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by interested parties seeking to reverse the SC’s ruling last year that the creation of the Shariff Kabunsuan two years ago by the 24-seat Regional Assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was illegal. 

In a resolution issued Friday, the Supreme Court said it found no “compelling reasons” nor “substantial arguments to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.”

The High Tribunal, in an initial ruling, said only Congress can create provinces or reformat the geographical composition of congressional districts in the country.

Shariff Kabunsuan would have been the country’s 80th province, and the sixth in the ARMM, which also covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, all in Central Mindanao, the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

Shariff Kabunsuan’s acting governor, Ibrahim Ibay, said he has no way but accept the decision of the Supreme Court.

“As law-abiding citizens, we have to abide by that ruling. We’re sad and hurt but we recognize the powers of the Supreme Court,” Ibay said. 

Ibay, acting as governor, since 2007 expressed dismay over the Court’s decision but would accept it anyway.

Employees of the abolished province said the Supreme Court ruling was an offshoot of an electoral dispute between Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, whose congressional district covers Cotabato City and the first district of Maguindanao which Shariff Kabunsuan supposedly covered, and a rival in the 2007 elections.

Dilangalen’s rival questioned the propriety of his being congressman of Shariff Kabunsuan despite his being resident of Cotabato City, which was perceived to have become a separate congressional district right after the creation of the new province by the ARMM legislature.

Dilangalen, in response, raised the legal argument that the ARMM legislature has no power to create provinces.

Lawyers here said by legal implication, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday also meant reverting to Maguindanao all of the 11 towns Shariff Kabunsuan covered, as part of the first district of the mother province. 

Dilangalen, will retain his elective post as congressional representative of the first district of Maguindanao, which covers all of the towns the ARMM Assembly placed under the jurisdiction of Shariff Kabunsuan.

“We are in disarray, we do not know what to do with the more than 800 provincial employees,” Ibay told reporters. “Practically we are jobless and unemployed.”











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