ARMM plebiscite generally peaceful: Comelec

The plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been peaceful with no reported untoward incident, officials said Monday.

“The plebiscite in the whole of ARMM is generally peaceful,” said lawyer Ray Sumalipao, Comelec-ARMM regional director, in a press conference here. “

“It is too early to comment on the turnout of voters but there was no reported untoward incident in ARMM provinces as regards to the plebiscite,” Sumalipao added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) also declared plebiscite on the ratification of the BOL in the ARMM provinces generally peaceful.

In a message sent to reporters in Camp Crame, Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, Police Regional Office ARMM Director, said residents went out to cast their votes during the BOL plebiscite.

Chief Supt. Benigno Durana, PNP spokesperson, said there are a couple of incidents but the region was generally peaceful and everything went smoothly.

Durana said the police deployment in the area will depend on the transport of ballot boxes and on the assessment of regional and provincial election monitoring action center, whose members are from the PNP, Comelec and AFP.

“The PNP in coordination with AFP, Comelec, and MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], we don’t want any group to intimidate others in the exercise of their democratic rights. That’s clear for the PNP, AFP and MILF. We are one in making sure that we would conduct a peaceful and orderly plebiscite,” Durana said.

“We are a law enforcement agency and we implement whatever law that will be passed by Congress…we will enforce it without fear or favor,” he said.

On the other hand, lawyer Benny Bacani, director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, whose office is conducting region-wide plebiscite monitoring, said a low turnout in ARMM was expected because no political personalities were involved unlike in regular elections.

In Maguindanao, provincial Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led local officials and his family in casting their votes at the Buluan Central Elementary School at about 8 a.m.

“I voted “yes” because I believe in the government’s desire to improve the ARMM,” Mangudadatu told reporters after emerging from the voting center.

“The current ARMM set up is good; it will be better under BARMM. Once this BOL is in place there will be decommissioning of guns and peace will reign here,” he added.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim also cast his vote at Simuay Junction Elementary School in Barangay Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. He was joined by other MILF leaders.

In this city, meanwhile, many voters complained of disenfranchisement after experiencing difficulty in finding their names in the voting precincts where they last voted.

As of 10 a.m., about 20 ballot boxes remained unclaimed at the Cotabato City Treasurer’s Office where the election materials were earlier assigned for safekeeping.

Sumalipao said 72 teachers tasked to serve as plebiscite committee members here in 24 clustered precincts withdrew from poll duties after receiving threats through text messages.

“The teachers were replaced by police personnel earlier trained to do election duties,” he said.

Also, two grenade attacks marred the city on Sunday night and Monday morning. No casualty was reported from both incidents. Police are still investigating the motive of the grenade attacks. (with reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA/Edwin Fernandez)