The local government of Isabela City in Basilan expressed elation after it officially opted out of the Bangsamoro Autonomous in Muslim Mindanao, following the January 21 plebiscite.
Isabela City Vice Mayor Cherry Akbar said the result of the plebiscite is clear manifestation that their constituents do not want to be part of the new Bangsamoro Region.
"Masaya po kami, dahil lumabas at napakinggan ang boses ng Isabelaños at iginalang din po ng board of canvassers or ng en banc," she said.
A total of 22,441 voted against the inclusion of Isabela city to the new Bangsamoro region, while only 19,032 voted in favor.
Its mother unit, the province of Basilan, voted in favor of the city being part of the BARMM. The affirmative votes totaled 144,640 and the negative votes 8,487.
But since the BOL required a “double majority” — meaning both the city and the province should vote in the affirmative — Isabela City will remain outside of the BARMM.
Despite allegations of discrepancies and irregularities, Akbar stood firm that there were no anomalies during the counting of votes in the precinct level and in the board of canvassers.
“Kasi after the plebcom, napatunayan naman na walang anomalyang nangyari doon sa mga contested ballots," she said.
"Kung hindi, hindi lang siya na-proper fill up, kulang ng signature, may mga maliliit na discrepancy kung saan kailangan lang ayusin para legal lahat ng documents, pero walang dayaan na nangyari during the counting in the precinct level and in the canvassing.”
Critics said Isabela City will be left behind in terms of progress and socio-economic development if they continue to opt out of the new Bangsamoro region.
Akbar, however, said she sees a win-win solution in their situation, saying that their constituents would still benefit from the projects and programs of BARMM in Basilan.