MANILA - The conduct of the Bangsamoro plebiscite that would give broader autonomy to the Muslim region was generally peaceful, an official said.
This, despite reports of intimidation and vote buying, and scuffles at polling precincts.
"Generally, maayos naman ang proseso kahapon meron lang kaunting hidwaan among supporters ng bumoto ng yes at no pero nabigyan naman po natin ng lunas," said Major General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
(The process was generally peaceful despite a few disagreements between supporters who voted for "Yes" and "No" which we immediately resolved.)
On Monday, around 6,000 troops from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were present in the area during the polls.
"Ok lang naman po basta hindi sila makikiaalam, hindi sila hostile. Although masasabi nating with their presence over certain amount of intimidation among those who will be voting for "No". Pero nag beef up kami ng forces para yung confidence ng lahat ng mga tao ng Cotabato City ay medyo mataas," Sobejana said during an interview on DZMM Tuesday morning.
(That's OK as long as they won't interfere, they're not hostile. Although we could say that with their presence, a certain amount of intimidation was placed on those who would be voting for "No". But we beefed up forces to raise the confidence level of the people in Cotabato City.)
Sobejano said the MILF troops immediately left after polling precincts closed.
He said that a grenade was also recovered in the area while authorities were conducting clearing operations on Monday.
"Sa atin pag-clear sa area, nakita po natin yung granada, hindi naman sumabog, narekober naman natin safely at nasa kustodiya na ng ating awtoridad ang granadang iyon," he said.
(We saw a grenade during the clearing operations. It did not explode as we recovered it safely and is now in the custody of authorities.)
The military remains on alert even after the plebiscite.
"Tuloy-tuloy po ang pag-secure natin, hindi naman po tayo tumitigil. May plebisito o wala nandoon pa rin yung mandato nating to make sure that people are safe and secured," he said.
(We continue to provide security in the area. Whether there's a plebiscite or not, it's our mandate to make sure that people are safe and the over 2 million people in Cotabato City, Isabela City in Basilan, and ARMM who voted on the first day of the plebiscite on Monday. Another round of voting on February 6 was set for those voting in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato areas.
Over 2 million people in Cotabato City, Isabela City in Basilan, and ARMM voted on the first day of the plebiscite on Monday. Another round of voting on February 6 was set for those voting in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato areas.
The Bangsamoro law, if ratified by the people, will create a new region with greater autonomy, replacing the 29-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and supposedly promising development in the area.
Signed in May 2018 by President Rodrigo Duterte, the Bangsamoro Organic Law is the culmination of years of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF seeking to heal the wounds from decades of conflict in the restive south.