By Francis Wakefield and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are now 100 percent ready for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared this Thursday as both the military and police laid out their respective security preparations for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite.
The plebiscite is scheduled on January 21, 2019 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cotabato City, and Isabela City for the ratification of the BOL.
For Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, including the barangays that filed their petitions to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) granted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the plebiscite will be on February 6, 2019.
With the scheduled plebiscite, Malacañang has declared January 21, 2019, a special non-working holiday in the ARMM, Isabela City, and Cotabato City.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed Proclamation No. 646 declaring a holiday over the said areas on January 21 to give way to the plebiscite that will be conducted by the Comelec.
Based on the Proclamation, the declaration is to allow the people in the ARMM, Isabela City, and Cotabato City to actively and fully participate in the plebiscite and exercise their right to vote.
In his Palace press briefing, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the plebiscite for the BOL ratification was also discussed during the command conference early this week.
“It was discussed. It will push through as scheduled. President will go there tomorrow and make a pitch for the ratification,” Panelo said, referring to Duterte’s attendance to peace assembly for the measure’s ratification in Cotabato City Friday.
“The President was in favor of BOL. It’s just logical for someone who is in favor of a particular idea to make a pitch for it,” he added.
The BOL, which was signed by President Duterte in July last year, creates the Bangsamoro government and grants it fiscal autonomy. According to Duterte, the BOL, hopefully, would put an end to the conflict between armed groups in the south.
It is also the result of decades-long peace negotiations between the government and rebel groups in Mindanao, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
But Duterte admitted that there is a possibility that not everybody would like the BOL. He said he is hoping that misunderstandings can be cleared immediately.
Early this week, Panelo said Duterte’s sentiments would be an effective tool so that people would support the legislation.
“The voice of the President is always a powerful influence on whatever matter his voice into,” Panelo said Monday.
Panelo assured that the President will respect whatever the decision of the people will be regarding the plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL.
Lorenzana said the military and police expect the plebiscite to proceed smoothly and peacefully.
“The military and police are 100 percent ready. We do not expect any untoward incident,” Lorenzana said.
Like Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said they do not foresee any significant threat that may disrupt the BOL plebiscite on January 21.
In an interview following his visit to troops stationed at the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade in Isabela, Basilan, under Colonel Fernando M. Reyeg, Madrifal said the assessment given to him is very positive, especially on the security preparations they have put in place.
“Based on the (security) briefing that was given to me by the commander of the 104th Brigade Colonel Reyeg, so far they have prepared and they do not foresee [iyung] threat sa [for a] safe and free conduct of the plebiscite,” Madrigal told reporters.
“Nagbigay sila ng [They provided the] areas of concern but they have address that (and) of course (through) the deployment ng PNP (of the Philippine National Police) in coordination of LGUs (local government units),” he added.
Madrigal said in Basilan alone, a total of 1,300 troops have been tapped to provide security for Monday’s plebiscite. For the whole of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), a total of 10,400 troops are there to secure the plebiscite.