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Marawi City gov’t free transport offer good but illegal, says LENTE

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FREE TRANSPORT service during the Jan. 21 Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite has been announced by the local government for Marawi residents living outside the city. In its official Facebook page, the city government identified several pick-up points in various parts of Marawi and even as far as Cagayan de Oro City. The 2017 siege in Marawi by local extremist groups linked to Islamic State left many parts of the city in ruins and displaced residents. The post said Mayor Majul U. Gandamra “wishes a peaceful and efficient votation during the said date” and called on “constituents of Marawi to practice their rights to vote.” However, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) said such free rides were illegal. “As much as this move of the City Government of Marawi is commendable, this is in clear violation of our election law and COMELEC (Commission on Elections) resolution No. 10432 which prohibits giving or accepting of free transportation the day before and on plebiscite day,” said the group, a network of lawyers and paralegals working for truthful elections in the Philippines. “We call on the City Government to not push through with this activity. We also call on COMELEC to instead be the one to provide such service to our voters, especially to IDP (internally displace persons) voters based in settlement areas,” it added. Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez, at a press conference in Cotabato City yesterday, said they were still verifying the information, but he cited that during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Sept. 2018, a similar arrangement was allowed given accessibility and distance concerns. — with a report from Tajallih S. Basman

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