MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has issued specific guidelines on the upcoming plebiscite for a new Bangsamoro law, a crucial vote facing security challenges following the bombing that killed 2 people in a Cotabato City mall on New Year’s Eve.
The resolution allows poll officers to transfer the counting of votes during the Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 plebiscite “to a safer place.”
Counting may be held in “any other place within a public building in the same city or municipality on account of imminent danger or widespread violence,” the document showed.
A Cotabato-based think tank on Wednesday called for sobriety and cautioned against blaming the Cotabato City bombing on certain persons or groups without evidence.
The Institute for Autonomy and Governance urged security forces to conduct a “thorough investigation” and “not simply resort to blaming the usual” terrorists.
“This dastardly act kills innocent bystanders and destroys the trust and spirit of free and democratic discussion on the inclusion or exclusion of Cotabato City in the scheduled plebiscite,” the group said in a statement.
“Whether we are for or against inclusion, we do not forget that we are all united and stakeholders to peace and development of Mindanao, in particular, and the Philippines, as a whole.”
Cotabato City is a major battleground for the Bangsamoro Organic Law because incumbent Mayor Cynthia Guiani is not favor of placing her area under the new territory.
Guiani’s opponent in the May mayoral race is outgoing Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, a strong advocate of the BOL.
The plebiscite will be held first in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, and Isabela City in Basilan on Jan. 21.
Based on the Comelec guidelines, questions for residents here will include an Arabic translation.
The rest of the core territories, including contiguous areas that asked to be included in the new Bangsamoro area, will get to vote on Feb. 6.
The Comelec is yet to settle petitions filed by more than 100 communities seeking to be part of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The plebiscite will require a “double majority,” meaning both the areas and their mother units should vote in favor of inclusion.
Voting hours will be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Voters present within 30 meters in front of the polling place during cut-off will still be accommodated.