Blasts rock Lanao Norte on eve of Bangsamoro plebiscite

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 05 February) – Explosions rocked three towns in Lanao del Norte on Tuesday,  eve of the plebiscite on the proposed inclusion of six of the provinces’ 22 towns in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Police Northern Mindanao spokesperson Superintendent Surki Sereñas said no casualties were reported in the explosions in Kauswagan and Lala town Monday afternoon.

At 9:30 p.m. a grenade exploded at the Mindanao State University High School in Sultan Naga Dimaporo but no one was reported injured. Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, chief of the the 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan Commander, said “everything is under control and we encourage everyone not to panic and exercise their right to vote.”

On the afternoon blasts, Sereñas said information stating that it was an alleged grenade or  improvised explosive device (IED) attack is “premature and not validated.”

“There were even reports that the explosions came from firecrackers. The information did not come from us,” Sereñas said.

He said the explosive in Kauswagan was placed beside a dumptruck parked behind the town’s multi-purpose gym.

He said in the town of Lala, explosive ordnance personnel detonated a suspicious looking bag left near the market.

“This is simply scare tactics and are the handiwork of those who want to sow fear and panic among the people of Lanao del Norte and derail the conduct of a peaceful and orderly plebiscite,” Sereñas said.

Police personnel guard the municipal gym of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte on Wednesday, 6 February 2019, plebiscite day for the Bangsamoro Law. A blast occurred behind the gym the day before. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

More than 2,000 policemen from the Visayas region have been deployed to augment the security in Lanao del Norte.

Sereñas said included in this deployment is a contingent of police officers trained by the Commission on Elections to take over poll duties in case the teachers will not show up on election day.

The twin explosions raised fears among Lanao del Norte residents and at least 60 families or 258 individuals have fled to neighboring Ozamiz City.

Rico Guangco Jr., Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer, said the evacuees started trickling in last Feb. 2.

Guangco said many of the evacuees crossed to Ozamiz on board dump trucks and pumpboats across Panguil Bay.

“Some of those interviewed said they saw armed men roaming around their place amid the frenzy of campaigning for the organic law for the Bangsamoro, hence their decision to seek refuge with relatives in Ozamiz City,” he said.

He said they are expecting more evacuees as the political tension is expected to become more intense on Wednesday, plebiscite day. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)