Maguindanao del Norte impasse: caused by wrong legal advice

“SEC. 50. Officials of the newly created Provinces —

(a) The newly elected officials of the newly created provinces shall be elected on the second Monday of May 2023 national and local elections: Provided, however (italics) That, if this Act is approved and ratified within six months or more prior to the 2022 national and local elections, the vice- governor and the next ranking elective member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (italics) of the present Province of Maguinadanao, who are the residents of the new province of Maguinadanao shall assume as its acting Governor and acting Vice-Governor, respectively, and both shall continue to serve in office until their successors shall have been elected and qualified in the 2022 national and local elections “

will readily see the clear intention of Congress when it passed that particular transitory provision, and that is — upon the creation of the new Province of Maguindanao del Norte, the assumption of transitional officials, I.e. Acting Governor and Acting Vice-Governor will take place to immediately govern the same, pending the election and qualification of their successors. This is to prevent a hiatus in the public service to secure the non-interruption in the delivery of basic services to the people of Maguindanao del Norte as well the continuous drawing of salaries of the officials and employees of the province.

Owing to the wrong interpretation of the said transitory provision of the lawyers of the government there is presently an impasse in the governance of the Maguindanao del Norte as two acting Governors are simultaneously holding office thereat. As a consequence thereto, the people of Maguindanao del Norte are suffering.

Despite the clear intention of the law dividing Maguindanao into two provinces these state lawyers opined that the transitory provision is inoperative. They claim that the circumstance of holding the plebiscite for the people’s ratification prior to the 2022 national and local elections not having occurred, it follows that the said provision that directs the assumption of the elected Vice-Governor and the next elective ranking member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Maguindanao shall serve as the acting Governor and Vice-Governor of Maguindanao del Norte and will continue to serve until their successors are elected and qualified, is inapplicable.

Apparently this wrong legal opinion paved the way for the appointment of Abdulraof Abdul Macacoa by the President of an acting Officer-in-Charge of the Maguindanao del Norte, despite the fact that there was no vacancy in the position of Acting Governor, as the duly elected Vice-Governor of Maguindanao, Bai Fatima Ainee Sinsuat already assumed office as Acting Governor pursuant to Section 50 of Republic Act 11550.

Following the appointment of the aforesaid OIC of Maguindanao del Norte, Acting Governor Bai Ainee Sinsuat was also appointed by the President as Acting Vice-Governor.

All the elected officials of the Maguindanao del Sur and the newly appointed officials took their oath of office on April 4 in Malacañang Palace.

On April 5, 2023, the Bai Fatima Ainee Sinsuat registered her respectful but vigorous objection to the appointment of Abdulraof Abdul Macacua as OIC of Maguindanao dl Norte as bereft of legal basis by way of a formal letter addressed to the President coursed thru Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

Prior to the said appointments, by reason of the refusal of the head of the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) Region XII, to designate an Acting Provincial Treasurer of Maguindanao del Norte resulting in the failure of the province to receive its share of the National Tax Allotment, Acting Governor Sinauat filed a petition for mandamus with a prayer for the issuance of a preliminary mandatory injunction against the BLGF.

In June 26 of this year, the Supreme Court, granted the petition for mandamus and made permanent the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.

Citing the aforesaid decision of the Supreme Court, Fatima Bai Ainee Sinsuat re-assumed the office of Acting Governor. The BLGF however refused to recognize her giving the reason that the mandamus case is not final and executory, and besides the issue of the governorship of Maguindanao del Norte was not part of the dispositive portion of the decision. Apparently, the BLGF position is upon the advice of the government lawyers who evidently is maintaining their wrong reading of the Section 50 of RA 11550 as well as their wrong interpretation of decision itself of the Supreme Court. There is an invocation of technicality to the prejudice of the people of Maguindanao del Norte. ( To be continued )

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