Security is tightening in autonomous areas of Mindanao in the days leading up to the Jan. 21 plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), with police and military officials warning against saboteurs who would disrupt or prevent the voting.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered security officials to ensure free, orderly and credible voting for the BOL.ADVERTISEMENT
Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, head of the Western Mindanao Command, said all units and systems had been put in place to protect at least 2.1 million registered voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during their exercise of their right to vote.
Dela Vega said the military had tapped the help of all sectors, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to secure the plebiscite.
In General Santos City, at least 400 policemen were deployed on Thursday to boost security in Cotabato City ahead of the plebiscite for the BOL, according to a top police official.
Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, regional police director, said the policemen were trained to respond to “whatever scenario.”
“The challenges we are facing appears greater than us,” Rasco said.
“Yet, on hindsight, it is one of those life-changing events for us and an event that we can be proud of,” he said in a statement.
Rasco backed the ratification of the BOL, which he said could “put an end to the conflicts that have long been tormenting people in the region.”
Once the BOL is ratified, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will replace the 28-year-old ARMM.ADVERTISEMENT
Rasco said policemen had been trained to perform as board of election inspectors to replace teachers who might be unable to render service because of security issues.
Besides Cotabato City all other areas in the ARMM will vote on Jan. 21, including Isabela City in Basilan.
Cotabato City, which is the seat of government of the ARMM, had twice rejected inclusion in the Moro autonomous region.
Dela Vega said the military was keeping close watch on Sulu and Cotabato City.
—Reports from Bong S. Sarmiento, Julie Alipala, Edwin Fernandez and Julie M. Aurelio