Bangsamoro plebiscite now has two dates: Jan. 21 and Feb. 6

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 Dec) — The plebiscite to ratify RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will now have two dates, on January 21 and February 6, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.

January 21 will be for voters in the  five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, while February 6 will be for voters in Lanao del Norte,  six towns in North Cotabato and other areas that petition for inclusion in the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

In a press release posted on the Comelec’s Facebook page last Friday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the two-day plebiscite will “allow time for the full resolution of petitions for voluntary inclusion in the plebiscite.”

He said there are “currently 99 pending petitions for inclusion” in the future BARMM, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 28-year old AMRM.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for a photo with the legislators and negotiators in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as top officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police during the presentation of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the MILF at Malacañang Palace on August 6, 2018. Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

The two-day plebiscite dates surprised many as Comelec Resolution 10425 on the Rules and Regulations governing the conduct of the plebiscite, promulgated on September 26, designated the campaign period from December 7, 2018 to February 5, 2019. February 6 is a day after the end of the plebiscite period cited in the resolution.

But lawyer Ray Sumalipao, ARMM Comelec director, told MindaNews that the plebiscite period has been extended until February 21 through an amendment to  Resolution 10425.  He said the amended resolution is expected to be published on Monday, December 10, when all the Commissioners shall have signed it.

Proposed territory

The proposed core territory of the future BARMM comprises the ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Also proposed to be part of the core territory are the cities of Isabela in Basilan and Cotabato adjoining Maguindanao (Cotabato City voted no to inclusion in the ARMM in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscite); the six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns that voted yes for inclusion in the supposed “expanded” ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite; and all other contiguous areas where a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the registered voters in the area seeks for their inclusion at least two months prior to the plebiscite.”

Consent of mother units

The inclusion of the towns and barangays in the future BARMM, will depend not only on the voters in their areas but also on their mother units — Lanao del Norte for the six towns and the six towns in North Cotabato for the  39 barangays.

In the case of Lanao del Norte’s six towns, voters in the towns of Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal will troop to the polls to cast their votes on February 6. But voters in the 16 other towns of Lanao del Norte will also troop to the polls if they would agree that the six towns would be part of the BARMM.

In North Cotabato, those who will troop to the polls are voters in the 39 barangays in the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigcawayan and the rest of the voters in the other barangays in these towns. Even if the 39 barangays vote for inclusion, they will be included in the BARMM only if majority of the voters in these towns would give their consent.

Also voting will be residents in the contiguous areas that passed a resolution for inclusion, or where at least 10% of the registered voters in a local government petitioned for inclusion. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)