Gov. Mangudadatu: Plebiscite in Maguindanao generally peaceful

A person with disability goes to a polling center in Buluan, Maguindanao during the plebiscite on Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Monday, 21 January 2019. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/ 21 January) — Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu cast a “yes” vote here on Monday during the plebiscite to ratify Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, popularly referred to as Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL.

With thousands turning out at the Datu Luminog Mangelen Pilot Elementary School, including senior citizens, persons with disabilities and voters with young children, Mangudadatu expressed confidence the rest of Maguindanao will vote favorably in favor of the law.

At around 5:45 p.m on Monday, Mangudadatu, responding to a query if the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or other lawless groups sabotaged the plebiscite said: “Wala. Napaka peaceful and botohan (Nothing. The plebiscite was very peaceful).”

Authorities earlier said they are wary the BIFF, which rejected the peace deal between the government and the MILF, might launch attacks to spoil the plebiscite.

Mangudadatu thanked the military and the police for securing the voters and the polling centers in the province’s 36 towns.

The governor cast his vote at shortly past 9 a.m. without much fanfare.

“I am expecting that 95 percent of the votes in Maguindanao will be in favor of the BOL. I slept little during the night because I have been calling our mayors and other leaders to convince their constituents to vote in favor of the ratification of the law,” he told a handful of reporters covering this town, the capital of Maguindanao province.

Maguindanao, with 650,244 registered voters, the highest in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which will be replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao once voters ratify the Bangsamoro Law.

Maguindanao is considered the bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which waged a rebellion against government for over four decades that claimed over 120,000 lives, including civilians.

In 2014, the government and the MILF forged the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the key component of which is the establishment of a new Bangsamoro region in the south.

Mangudadatu believed the new Bangsamoro region will significantly bring peace to the area with the decommissioning of firearms of the MILF and the demobilization of its combatants.

“The prevalence of guns was the culprit why we have chaos,” he said in Filipino.

As of 6 pm., the Comelec municipal office was still tallying the final votes.

But even before the polling precincts opened here at 7 a.m., hundreds of voters were seen already at the precincts eager to cast their votes.

“I want the yes votes to win for the sake of the next generation,” said Ramzan Bagumbayan, whose wife lost an unborn child during the 2000 all-out war declared by then President Joseph Estrada.

“Conflict has been a perennial problem in our area. With BOL, I am really hoping peace will prevail that will usher in a bright future for us,” he added in Filipino.

Aboard a tricycle with his wife and another son, Nazah Macabangin, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front, also trooped to the precincts here to cast a yes vote.

“I hope that with the ratification of the BOL, this will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity (to the new Bangsamoro region),” he said in the vernacular. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)