MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—Explosions rocked two towns in Lanao del Norte on Tuesday, a day before the second plebiscite that will determine if more areas will be added to the new Bangsamoro region.
The first blast occurred in front of a gas station in Lala town at 4:35 p.m., the military said, while the second happened at 4:50 p.m. at the back of the Kauswagan municipal building.
No injuries and damage were reported as of posting.
The police's Explosive Ordnance Disposal has launched an investigation to determine the type of explosives used and identify the culprits, according to the military.
"Everything is under control and we encourage everyone not to panic and exercise their right to vote," said Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the 1st Infantry Division.
The blasts came a week after a bomb attack in a church in Jolo, Sulu, which killed 22 people and wounded at least 100 others.
Four days later, a grenade attack at a mosque in Zamboanga City left two dead and 4 others injured.
Incidents of violence have occurred after the initial January 21 plebiscite, which ratified the new Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). Authorities said the attacks have nothing to do with the vote.
Wednesday's vote will cover 6 towns in Lanao del Norte and 67 villages in North Cotabato.
Kauswagan Mayor Rommel Arnado said authorities believe a woman planted the bomb in his town.
“Meron mga nakakita isang babae na naglagay doon, pero sa CCTV hindi makita specific na nilagyan kaya di masabi kung babae na Muslim naglagay doon,” he said.
Arnado said this is meant to scare voters.
"No" votes are expected to prevail in Kauswagan town after it was attacked by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 and 2008, according to Arnado.
“Obviously pananakot sa mga botante namin bukas (it's meant to scare our voters tomorrow), same thing with what happened to Cotabato. It's a strategy to scare people out not to vote tomorrow,” he said.
Arnado said he is frustrated that despite the thousands of police officers deployed in Lanao del Norte, the bombing still happened.
“Come out tomorrow and don't be scared,” he urged voters.
Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimaporo said she was "sure" the explosions were connected with the second plebiscite.
"Hindi kami natatakot. (We're not afraid.) We are ready for tomorrow. We have a prayer brigade for (Wednesday)," Dimaporo told ABS-CBN News.
"Sana 'wag silang manggulo dito dahil hindi kami magulo rito."
(We hope they will not cause trouble here because we are peaceful here.)
Dimaporo said her constituents are not against the Bangsamoro law but said they would not like their 6 towns "to be taken" from them.
"Ano'ng ikabubuti (What good will it do) if they will be part of the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)?" she said.
—With reports from Chiara Zambrano and Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News