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3,000 former MILF combatants to cast votes in today’s plebiscite

/ 10:49 AM January 21, 2019

ISABELA CITY, BASILAN – Close to 3,000 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would cast their votes in a plebiscite today, Monday, to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Hadji Dan Asnawi, commander of the 114th Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces Base Command, said his men and women in the field were all set to go to designated polling precincts to be part of this historical political exercise.

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“Our people have been oriented, taught and educated on how to cast their votes. We are confident a yes vote will win,” said Asnawi who is among the thousands of Bangsamoro fighters who would take part in the plebiscite.

For security reasons, Asnawi’s voting precinct is not revealed to the public, until after he is done with voting.

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Asnawi is facing multiple counts of murder for the death of 19 soldiers in October 2011. He was also implicated in the killing of 23 Marine soldiers in August 2007. All incidents transpired in Al Barka, Basilan.

Asnawi said he had been given a safe-conduct pass to move from his base in Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cambug, Al Barka to Lamitan.

“I am charged with cases that I never committed and until now, I am still waiting for the government to hear my plea. I am innocent,” Asnawi said.

“I was out of the country when the incident took place. Had my hajj then. When I returned, I was arrested,” Asnawi said, referring to the 22 counts of murder filed against him in relation to the 2007 incident in Ginanta village. He was put to jail in Basilan but managed to escape in December 2009.

Lawyer Marino Salas, head of the education and information team of the Comelec, said an MILF commander would be considered a regular voter, whether or not he is facing a standing warrant of arrest.

Salas said they would leave it to the military and police to handle voters who may have been facing charges.

“As far as we are concerned, the MILF are the proponents of this plebiscite and they are free to cast their votes. If there are personalities with cases, I guess the CCCH has already settled it, so they have a safe-conduct pass to cast their votes,” Salas said.

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The Special Monitoring Team (SMT) of the Commission on Elections here said they were expecting a hundred percent turn-out of voters for the January 21 plebiscite.

Lawyer Frances Aguindadao-Arabe, the team leader of SMT in Basulta (Basilan, Sulu, and Tawitawi), said the electorate in Basilan were excited to vote.

“Sa tingin namin, excited ang mga tao (We think people are excited) to cast their votes because this is the first time they will be determining the future of their region,” Arabe said.

She said special focus would be given to Isabela City and Sulu.

As the SMT gave its initial assessment here on Sunday night, Christians led by Catholic priests in this city lit candles around the Santa Isabel Cathedral.

“(We lit) candles to lighten the minds and hearts of Isabela people to go out and vote according to their conscience,” Fr. Roel Casas, the administrator, said.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Organic Law, Basilan, BOL, combatants, Local news, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Philippine news update, Plebiscite
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