Disenfranchisement, delayed opening of voting precincts mar Cotabato Bangsamoro plebiscite
COTABATO CITY–Unarmed members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been seen milling in front of almost all voting centers in the city.
Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said the presence of MILF members in green shirts with two-way radio sets were meant to scare voters, especially in Christian-dominated areas.
“Their presence is scary to some voters,” she said.
“We caught some flying voters with MILF identification cards. Some were minors,” Sayadi said. She said the alleged “flying voters” cast their votes in the Cotabato Chinese Institute.
At Sero Central School, some teachers, who are members of the plebiscite committee, did not show up, causing delays in the opening of voting.
Voting started at past 10 a.m. with the police performing poll duties.
Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of Cotabato City and Maguindanao’s first district questioned the deployment of police to man the voting precinct of Rosary Heights 7.
“These police have no appointments as plebiscite committee members,” Sema said. “I asked them if they underwent training on poll duties, they said no,” Sema said.
“These are delaying tactics because most of the voters in RH-7 where I belong are for the ‘yes vote,’” Sema said without identifying who orchestrated the delays.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, head of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), said the poll body appeared to be ill-prepared for this plebiscite.
“The problem of withdrawal of teachers or plebiscite committee (plebcom) should have been anticipated and delays should have been avoided,” Casiple, who was stationed at the Notre Dame University here, said in a radio interview.
Several voting precincts remained closed as of 11 a.m. due to the refusal of teachers to serve.
“Men in green shirts threatened us, so we decided not to proceed,” a teacher from Barangay Rosary Heights 10 said, asking that she be unidentified.
Voter turn-out in Tawi-Tawi was low as of 11 a.m., said lawyer Benny Bacani, director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).
IAG is conducting a plebiscite monitoring across ARMM with Casiple providing insights and analysis of the plebiscite process.
Bacani said high turnout of voters was observed in Cotabato City and Isabela City “because the issue here is inclusion or exclusion.”
In Cotabato City, two Air Force choppers have been hovering above the city from 7 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. /lzb
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