MONDAY’S plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) has been mostly peaceful despite some untoward incidents, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said in an update on Monday.
In a livestreamed press briefing on Monday, Comelec Regional Director for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Rey F. Sumalipao said about the plebiscite, “It’s not just generally peaceful, it’s really peaceful.”
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde said in his statement on Monday, “Based on the assessment of the PNP Regional Director for ARMM, Police Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares, the BOL plebiscite is foreseen to be peaceful because majority of the electorate is in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).”
Mr. Sumalipao also reported a high voter turnout: “The people are really going to the voting center….We could conclude that there is a high turnout.”
He added, “There are some of those who alleged that people are preventing some voters to vote but everything will be referred to the task force and the task force will make action on this. I believe all of those were pacified by them and given solutions.”
In Cotabato City, voters lined up early to cast their ballots for the BOL, but there were delays in the opening of some voting centers.
Among those who exercised their right to suffrage were Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi in Cotabato City and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at the Simuay Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat.
Several incidents marred voting day, including a scuffle after a flying voter was caught at the Cotabato City Institute. The suspect was later discovered to be only 17 years old, below the voting age.
In some areas, security forces asked for identification cards (ID) before allowing individuals to go inside the school. Lawyers group LENTE called this out, saying, “This should not have been done by these forces, as bringing of ID is not required to vote in any electoral exercise.”
A hand grenade was thrown at the house of Maguindanao Municipal Trial Court Judge Angelito Rasalan in Cotabato City on the eve of the Bangsamoro Plebiscite. There were no casualties reported.
“Iniimbestigahan ‘yan. Seemingly something personal ang tinitingnan na pangyayari doon sa judge. It has nothing to do with the ongoing plebiscite doon. Ito ‘yung tinitingnan nila dahil ang puntirya is parang takutin,” Mr. Albayalde said at a press briefing at Camp Crame on Monday. (That’s being investigated. We are looking at a seemingly…personal motive against the judge….This is what’s being considered because it seems the intention is to intimidate).
At Simuay Elementary School, several supporters who accompanied Mr. Murad chanted “Allahu Akbar.”
It was the first time ever that Mr. Murad, leader of the former rebel group MILF, participated in an electoral process.
As of 3:00 p.m., when voting was supposed to close, the Comelec was still deliberating on whether to extend the period for casting of ballots in consideration of the opening delay in some areas.
The joint military-police-Comelec monitoring center at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City reported the following voter turnout as of 1:30 p.m.: Maguindanao, 65%; Sulu, 20%; Lanao del Sur, 45%; Tawi-Tawi, 75%; Basilan, 62%; Cotabato City, 60%; and Isabela City, 80%.
Canvassing of votes will take place at Comelec’s Intramuros headquarters. As per Comelec Resolution 10478, the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NBOC) will be convened today, Jan. 22.
Comelec said it will announce the plebiscite results later this week. — Tajallih S. Basman, Gillian M. Cortez, and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras