Tight security for 2nd BOL plebiscite on Wednesday
COTABATO CITY — Security plans are in place in North Cotabato as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) prepares for the plebiscite on Feb. 6, when 67 villages in seven towns in the province decide on their inclusion in the Bangsamoro region.
“We are ready for the plebiscite. We are only waiting for the official ballots,” lawyer Jay Gerada, Cotabato election supervisor, said after conducting a series of meetings with the military, police and teachers who would serve as members of the plebiscite committee.
Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, police director for Region 12, on Monday led the deployment ceremony in General Santos City of close to 600 police officers to help secure the plebiscite in Cotabato.
Rasco said the police augmentation force would be deployed in Cotabato until Feb. 8.
Of the 67 Cotabato villages, four are in Aleosan, a town with 19 villages; seven are in Carmen town (28 villages), seven in Kabacan (24 villages), 13 in Midsayap (57 villages), 12 in Pigcawayan (40 villages), 23 in Pikit (42 villages) and one in Tulunan.
Voters in the six Lanao del Norte towns of Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal will also decide if they wish to join the new political entity by approving the Bangsa-moro Organic Law (BOL).
Except Iligan City
Voters in Lanao del Norte, excluding Iligan City, will also decide whether to allow these six towns to join the Bangsa-moro region or not.
In the days leading to the plebiscite, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Lanao del Norte campaigned for the inclusion of the six towns in the Bangsamoro region.
They also tried to convince people in non-Moro areas of the province to vote “yes,” with the help of Mayor Rafael Rizalda of Maigo town.
But provincial officials led by Gov. Imelda Dimaporo, her husband, Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, and their son, Rep. Khalid Dimaporo, oppose the inclusion of the six towns in the Bangsa-moro autonomous region.
“The issue in Lanao del Norte is not about the ratification of the BOL. It is about the inclusion of the six towns,” Gov. Dimaporo said.
The opposing camps accused each other of harassing their followers as the BOL campaign here ended two days before the plebiscite.
“We decry the threats to cut conditional cash transfer and senior citizens benefits to Christians and Muslims if they vote yes to BOL,” said Salahoden Benhamza, lawyer for the MILF North Western Mindanao Front, during a meeting with MNLF leaders in Cagayan de Oro on Friday.
But the ruling Dimaporo clan, which vigorously campaigned for the exclusion of the six Lanao del Norte towns from the Bangsamoro region, alleged that MILF members had been going around the province to harass barangay officials who publicly campaigned against the BOL. —Reports from Edwin Fernandez, Bong Sarmient and Divina Suson
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