Governor, employees to Marcos: Fix Maguindanao del Norte budget impasse
COTABATO CITY—The leaders and employees of newly created Maguindanao del Norte province had sought the intervention of President Marcos to fix some kinks relating to the release of its funds.
Acting Gov. Bai Fatima Ainee Sinsuat said that even though the province got its national tax allotment (NTA) from the government, the provincial government was unable to use these funds because the new province had yet to appoint a provincial treasurer. The province’s NTA allocation is P1.8 billion this year.
Maguindanao del Norte and sister province Maguindanao del Sur were created when Maguindanao province was split after a plebiscite on Sept. 17 last year.
Some three weeks after the plebiscite, then Maguindanao Gov. Bai Mariam Mangudadatu, and Sinsuat, who was elected vice governor in the May 2022 polls, assumed as governors of Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte, respectively.
They also agreed on a 60-day transition to give time to dividing the assets, liabilities and obligations, and employees of the old province among the two new provinces.
However, the Ministry of Interior and Local Government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which has supervision over the local governments in the region, has not recognized Sinsuat’s assumption into office.
Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said Sinsuat needed to be appointed by President Marcos to the post.
Amid this brewing legal controversy in the birthing of the new provinces, Maguindanao del Norte was able to open a corporate account with the Land Bank of the Philippines which already contained the NTA release for January and February this year.
“Our assumption has been doubted even to the point of refusing the province to withdraw our own government funds for the people of Maguindanao del Norte,” Sinsuat said in a statement.
The governor and the provincial treasurer are the main signatories in disbursing funds of the provincial government.
Mohajiroe Lauban, Maguindanao del Norte administrator, said they asked the Bureau of Local Government Finance of the Department of Finance to allow the current provincial treasurer of Maguindanao del Sur, who also used to be the treasurer of the defunct Maguindanao province, to serve in their province on a concurrent capacity.
However, this request, which was sent last December, has yet to be acted upon by the agency, Lauban added.
He said the matter was urgent because it was affecting the delivery of services to the 926,000 residents of the province, and that the salaries of some 200 employees had yet to be paid.
Lauban believed that only the President Marcos could solve the impasse.
Provincial employees also cry for the immediate release of funds so they will be paid their salaries and wages. Addressing Mr. Marcos in a statement, they said: “You are our only hope.”
Maguindanao del Norte is composed of 12 towns. Its capital is Datu Odin Sinsuat.