By William Depasupil/Manila Times
It’s all systems go for today’s scheduled plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez yesterday said some
2mn registered voters from the Autonomous Region in Mindanao (ARMM), Isabela City in Basilan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao were expected to cast their votes in the plebiscite.
“We have prepared extensively for this. Based on latest report from our people on the ground, everything is ready for tomorrow’s plebiscite,” according to Jimenez.
He said the Comelec expects a 75% turnout.
Jimenez added that the plebiscite would be manual and the questions only answerable by a “yes” or a “no.”
“Check marks, x-marks and other such marks will not be considered valid votes,” he said.
For the ARMM, the question is: “Do you agree to ratify Republic Act (RA) 11054?”
RA 1154 is the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barrm). Isabela City and Cotabato City voters will be asked if they want to include their respective cities in the Barrm.
A second plebiscite for the purpose is scheduled on February 6, covering the provinces 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 the Bangsamoro core areas where the local governments, by way of a resolution, asked for the inclusion in the plebiscite, or at least 10% of the registered voters in a local government unit, by way of a petition, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite.
The BOL, a result of a peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, is expected to be voted upon by about 2.8mn people.
Its ratification will lead to the abolition of the existing ARMM, which will be replaced by the Barrm.
The establishment of the Barrm and the determination of its territorial jurisdiction will take effect upon the ratification of the BOL by majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite.
In southern Mindanao, Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, MILF central committee chairman, said in an interview over Super Radyo dzBB yesterday said authorities had not monitored major threats, except some minor tensions in Cotabato City, Lanao del Norte and a few other areas.
After the ratification of the BOL, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, which Ebrahim is expected to head as chief minister, is slated to govern the Barrm until 2022 when its first regular elections would be held.
Ebrahim said majority of the Barrm Parliament would come from the MILF, while the rest would be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, including those from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Christian and indigenous communities.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr, 103rd Brigade commander based in Marawi City, expressed confidence that the plebiscite in Lanao del Sur would be peaceful but troops, he said, are ready for any eventuality.
Similarly, Senior Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, acting director of the Lanao del Sur Police Provincial Office, said security measures had been put in place for today even as they expect a peaceful plebiscite.
Meanwhile, schools division Superintendents Pharida Sansarona in Marawi City, Normillah Pangandaman in Lanao del Sur I and Bairon Disomangcop of Lanao del Sur 2 said all division teachers who would serve in the plebiscite were more than ready.
To encourage people to join the plebiscite, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra offered free rides to voters from the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan (Lanao del Norte) to vote in Marawi.
City information officer Katty Gandamra told Manila Times the pick-up points for the free rides would be at Pangcoga Place, Cogon, Cagayan de Oro City and Old Gaisano Mall fronting Lugo Building, at the Poblacion, Iligan City, at 6:30 in the morning.
Jeepneys would also be stationed in Buganga Transitory Shelters, Saduc and Sarimanok villages, to transport voters to Sagonsongan village where the plebiscite would be held, the information officer added.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo yesterday reiterated her support for the ratification of the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law, which she believed would bring lasting peace to Mindanao.
“Of course, this is the first step in achieving that peace. Historical injustice is said to be the root cause of all conflicts. This is the attempt to correct that notion. This is the first step,” Robredo said in her weekly radio show.
But, lasting peace in Mindanao is not going to happen because the president is setting a stage for a “bigger armed conflict” through the BOL, according to exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
Sison also yesterday said both the governor and Sultan of Sulu were “openly and strongly” against the BOL, as well as the leadership of the MNLF under Nur Misuari.
“Thousands of MNLF followers in red shirts and Cotabato City officials made it a point to demonstrate at city hall to counter Duterte’s presence and campaign for BOL in the vicinity,” he said in a statement.
On Friday, Duterte went to Cotabato City to attend a rally in support of the BOL while on Thursday, his key Cabinet officials attended a similar rally in Jolo, Sulu, which was hosted by MNLF Chairman Yusof Jikiri.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters, “I am not going to dignify the comment of a person who has been away for close to three decades who has clearly lost touch of realities on the ground,” referring to the CPP founder.
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr, Armed Forces chief of staff, said in an interview in Marawi City that a group of Maute remnants under Owayda Benito Marohombsar alias Abu Dar still posed a threat to the whole of Mindanao.
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