(Eagle News) – All is set for the conduct, Wednesday, February 6, of the second round of the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), as security measures were further tightened especially after the Jolo bombing in Sulu.
Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez said all is ready for the February 6 plebiscite BOL plebiscite which will be conducted in the following areas:
– province of Lanao del Norte, except Iligan City;
– the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan in the province of North Cotabato;
– and all other areas contiguous to any of the Bangsamoro core areas where: (a) the local government of such area, by way of a resolution, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite; or (b) at least 10% of the registered voters in a local government unit, by way of a petition, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite.
There are currently 99 pending Petitions for Inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), according to the Comelec website.
Jimenez said that while the first plebiscite held on January 21 in the areas comprising the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as well as Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City, was a success, the February 6 plebiscite will be even closely guarded and secured.
“Let us face it. The January 21 polls was a success, and we hope to duplicate that success here,” said the Comelec spokesperson in a press conference referring to the Feb. 6 plebiscite.
He said the “biggest concern coming into the elections” was the possible spillover of incidents of violence in other parts of Mindanao.
But he said that the Comelec was assured by the Philippine National Police that there was “no need to increase the number of election hotspots.
“They (PNP officials) are are not expecting any great disruptions during the February 6 plebiscite,” Jimenez said in a press conference.
-Tense situation in Lanao del Norte
The situation is especially tense in Lanao del Norte where the provincial government is campaigning for a “no” vote in the BOL plebiscite, while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is actively campaigning for a “yes” vote so the entire province will be covered by BARMM under BOL.
More than 2,000 soldiers and policemen will be deployed in Lanao del Norte alone to secure the February 6 plebiscite.
Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo of the MILF’s Northwestern Mindanao Front command had earlier hinted of possible violence if the “no” votes would win.
In a video message posted on social media, he had urged the people of Lanao del Norte to vote “Yes” to the BOL.
“Nakiki-usap ako na tayo ay magkakaisa sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa pamamagitan ng pagboto ng ‘yes’ para sa inclusion ng anim na munisipyo ng Lanao del Norte sa ARMM front”.
“Huling pananawagan at paki-usap ito sa inyong lahat dahil dito nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng ating mga anak at ng Lanao del Norte”, said Bravo who added that he would consider it as a debt of gratitude if the Lanao residents would vote for BOL.
But he said that a “No” vote means a denial of their rights to live peacefully.
“Ang pagboto ninyo ng NO ay isang paglapastangan sa aming karapatan na makapamuhay ng mapayapa at tahimik,” the MILF commander said.
“Huwag ninyo kami bigyan ng dahilan na ipagpatuloy namin ang paghawak ng armas at pagtanim ng galit sa inyo, ayaw namin ng gulo”, he said.
MILF Northwest Mindanao Front counsel Atty. Salahoden Benhamza, however downplayed this apparent threat by Commander Bravo.
“Kung tutuusin natin, iyong birthplace niya ay hindi nasama sa core territory na isasama sana sa BARMM, pero bumigay siya ng compromise alang-alang sa kapayapaan,” Benhamza said.
Based on the results of the January 21 plebscite, Comelec said that the BOL is “deemed ratified” which meant that the ARMM will be abolished and that the process of the formal establishment of the BARMM begins.
It also announced that Cotabato City will be part of this new autonomous region. But Isabela City in Basilan where the “No” votes won will remain outside of the new autonomous region. Isabela City was also not a part of the ARMM.
Sulu province voted against the BOL, with 163,526 residents voting “no” and 137,630 for its ratification. But even with the BOL rejection, Sulu would still be part of BARMM since it is part of the ARMM which overwhelmingly voted for the BOL.