Bangsamoro plebiscite kicks off

January 21, 2019
Muslim Women
Muslim women look for their names at a voting precinct in Maguindanao yesterday for the plebiscite to ratify the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). AFP/Noel CELIS

Generally peaceful save for grenade attack on Cotabato judge’s house ahead of political exercise.

THE plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law got underway as scheduled at the first hour yesterday in 1,157 voting centers in the ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; and in 71 voting centers in Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said.

Ahead of the plebiscite however two grenades were thrown Sunday at the house of a Cotabato municipal judge while two others were detonated by Army bomb disposal experts early yesterday morning as the Bangsamoro Organic Law poll started.

A fragmentation grenade was discovered along a pathway leading to a national high school in Barangay Rosary Heights around 7 in the morning by a passerby who immediately alerted local authorities, police said.

An investigation is still underway on who left the grenade about 100 meters away from the local police headquarters.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday, two grenades were tossed inside the residential compound of Judge Angelito Rasalan of the Upi Municipal Circuit Trial Court although no one was reported hurt in the explosion.

The incident is still being investigated, said Police Regional Office 12 director, Chief Superintendent Eliseo T. Rasco.

PNP chief Albayalde said that a sizeable force of 6,698 police personnel were deployed to provide security and police assistance to an estimated 2,165,316 registered voters who will troop to polling centers in 2,572 barangays in these areas until the close of polling hours in the afternoon.

Another force of 3,209 police personnel will be fielded in the BOL plebiscite on February 6, 2019 in six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangay in North Cotabato, he added.

Gen. Albayalde said that the entire 9,907-strong PNP contingent for the BOL plebiscite is backed by a reserve force of two battalions from the PNP Special Action Force and the Regional Mobile Force of CALABARZON and Central Luzon.

A military contingent of 10,441 troops from five AFP Joint Task Forces stationed in Mindanao is also providing security to the plebiscite, with reserve forces from other AFP units, he said.

Gen. Albayalde said that the PNP Security Task Force “BOL Plebiscite” has been organized under the command of PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Deputy Director General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa to oversee and manage the implementation of the PNP security plan.

Operating under the command of the STF “BOL Plebiscite” are six  Task Groups with specific operational functions on focused police operations, legal offensive, intelligence-led operations, logistics and finance, human resource, and information operations.

“The PNP is implementing this BOL Plebiscite security plan with the advantage of encompassing law enforcement efforts happening simultaneously with the PNP’s performance of election duty in the ongoing election period for the 2019 midterm polls; and while a Martial Law remains in effect in the entire Mindanao,” Gen. Albayalde said.

The 43-day campaign period for the BOL Plebiscite culminated on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

“As of 6:00AM today, January 21, the PNP has conducted a total of 200,216 checkpoint and 68 other police interdiction operations throughout ARMM and some parts of Central, Western and Northern Mindanao that resulted in the arrest of 85 persons and the confiscation of 85 firearms, 12 grenades, three bladed weapons and 589 live bullets,” the PNP chief said.

“We share the opinion of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that this law not only serves as ‘an expression of our desire to end more than half-a-century of armed struggle in the region, but also as a testament to your determination to bring peace’,” he said.

Based on the assessment of the PNP Regional Director for ARMM, Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares, the BOL plebiscite is foreseen to be peaceful because majority of the electorate is in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Based on the monitoring, there are no groups that have expressed strong or active opposition to the introduced political entity except for former Gov. Abdusakur Tan of Sulu province.

“However, we cannot discount the possibility that threat  groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, Maute and local terrorist groups might create atrocities to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the plebiscite,” Mijares said .

Nonetheless, PRO-ARMM has mobilized its Police Provincial Offices to implement target hardening measures and proactive police actions particularly in the areas of concern to ensure the safe conduct of the BOL plebiscite, Gen. Albayalde said.