MANILA—Cotabato City may become “collateral damage” of its local political rivalry which may influence the upcoming plebiscite for a new autonomous region in Mindanao, the country’s elections chief said Friday.
Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani earlier predicted that residents would reject the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is being pushed by her election rival, outgoing Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema.
“Kung papansinin niyo 'yung Cotabato City, it will be bloody because nagiging parang collateral damage 'yan,” election chief Sheriff Abas said, but clarified he was speaking figuratively.
(If you notice in Cotabato City, it will be bloody because it became like collateral damage.)
“To be frank with you, parang nadadamay siya ng local politics (it's being dragged into local politics).”
Cotabato City is considered the “crown jewel” of the new Bangsamoro region because of its history and location.
At present, it houses the office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will be abolished and replaced by the new Bangsamoro territory if the BOL surpasses the Jan. 21 plebiscite.
“Gitgitan ang laban diyan because kagaya ng sabi ko, naiimpluwensyahan sya ng local politics,” Abas told reporters after signing an agreement to educate voters on the BOL plebiscite.
(It will be close because, like I said, it is being influenced by local politics.)
The Commission on Elections will rule on a total of 103 petitions before the second vote scheduled on Feb. 6, spokesperson James Jimenez said Friday.
They were filed by residents of areas seeking to be included in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
ABAS WON’T VOTE
Abas also sought to address concerns that he might be biased in favor of the BOL because he is the nephew of Mohagher Iqbal, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s former chief peace negotiator.
“Mahirap man sa personal level, but sa official (capacity), I can assure you that I will be very, very fair,” he said.
Abas, who was born in Cotabato City, said he would not participate in the plebiscite because “the moment that I vote, I would have my bias already, for sure.”
The Comelec agreed to ramp up its information campaign on the upcoming plebiscite, formalizing the effort on Friday with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Two separate petitions have been filed questioning the constitutionality of the BOL before the Supreme Court.
One argument is that Congress could not just abolish the existing ARMM because it was created by the constitution.
“It is the right of people to file,” said retired military chief Carlito Galvez, President Rodrigo Duterte’s new peace adviser.
“We will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court.”
Ghazali Jaafar, whose BTC drafted the BOL initially, said there was “overwhelming” support among Muslims, Christians, and indigenous peoples for the new law.
But he warned against possible “intimidation, cheating, and vote-buying” during the plebiscite.
“Sad to note that until now, there is still a situation in our place, which unknowingly denies the essence of democracy,” he said.