Maguindanao province, long a hotbed of political and religious violence, will be split into two, under a bill that passed in the Senate on Monday.
The Senate Committee on Local Government approved the bill that originated from the House of Representatives. It seeks to divide the province into Northern Maguindanao and Southern Maguindanao. The head of the panel, Sen. Francis Tolentino, said a technical committe would thresh out the details.
Due to its size, Maguindanao should be split, said Sen. Bong Go, a long-time aide of President Rodrigo Duterte. It will allow authorities to focus on leadership at the municipal level, he said.
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The House bill was filed by Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, the widower of the Maguindanao massacre, the world's single worst political attack on journalists. Fifty-seven people were killed in the carnage on November 2009 when Mangudadatu's rivals tried to stop his wife and supporters from filing his certificate of candidacy.
At that time, Mangudadatu was challenging the Ampatuan clan, whose members were convicted of the massacre in 2019.
Mangudadatu's bill wants the Southern Maguindanao capital moved to Bulan, where he once served as vice mayor, from Shariff Aguak, citing the threat of armed groups near the area.
The incumbent governor, Mangudadatu's cousin, Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, wants the capitol to stay where it is.
In recent years, new provinces were carved out of existing ones, allowing more politicians to get elected to guberntorial or congressional posts. These include in recent years Davao Occidental and Zamboanga Sibugay.