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MANILA, Philippines - The creation of four "ghost towns" during the Arroyo administration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is hampering the passage of House Bill No. 625 that seeks to reapportion into three districts Maguindanao province tagged as the country's "cheating capital" during elections.
This was according to Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who that the ghost towns were created for the political accommodation of the family members of the dreaded Ampatuan clan.
A total of 198 suspects, including Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Andal Ampatuan Sr. and several other members of the clan are now being tried for the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao of 58 people including journalists.
“They are called ghost towns because they are not recognized by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as towns. So they don’t get their IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment)," Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committe on Local Governments, said on Thursday.
The senator said the so-called towns had inhabitants but the areas could not be considered as towns because the population in each area was below 25,000.
Section 442 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines states that among other requirments, a municipality may be created if the area with a contiguous territory of at least 50 square kilometers as certified by the Land Management Bureau has at least 25,000 inhabitants as certified by the National Statistics Office.
Based on the 2010 Census, the areas considered by DBM as ghost towns are Paglat (11,207 inhabitants); Pandag (13,795 inhabitants), Mangudadatu (14,864 inhabitants) and Datu Paglas (20,290 inhabitants).
Marcos said that instead of using the Local Government Code as basis in creating towns, the ARMM assembly during the Arroyo administration used a different law to justify the creation of the "ghost" towns based on a population of at least 10,000.
“On Maguindanao issue, ang nangyari dyan, hindi pareho ang batas na ginamit bilang requirements sa pagtatayo ng bagong bayan. May tao doon sa sinasabing ghost towns but ang ginawang threshold ng ARMM regional assembly is 10,000, which they passed it into law, but the Local Government Code said it is 25,000,” the senator said.