By Zea Capistrano and Leslie Ann Aquino
COTABATO CITY – The canvassing of votes for the plebiscite that will ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law will continue today in Cotabato City after only 74 of the total 374 clustered precincts were completed, elections spokesman James Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the counting of the ballots in Cotabato City officially started at 10 p.m. Monday night.
“They were awaiting the arrival of the ballot boxes as per instruction of the Comelec en banc. We have to wait for the arrival of the ballot boxes,” he said.
The canvassing of votes took a recess at 1:30 a.m. and was reconvened today at 6 a.m. at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center.
“The canvassing will continue today. Of course, they will recess from time to time but it will continue after all the 374 results are canvassed,” Jimenez added.
Once the results are all in, Jimenez said it will be transmitted directly to Manila.
Meanwhile, the provincial canvassing is also ongoing. Jimenez said that as of 7:00 a.m., the provincial canvassing at the ARMM Regional Library inside the main auditorium of the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center was already halfway done for the canvass of Maguindanao province.
Jimenez said they are also expecting that the canvass reports for the regional canvassing will come in from Basulta and Lanao del Sur. The canvassing for the regional results is being held at the Regional Legislative Assembly.
Except for some precincts in Cotabato City, majority of polling precincts were able to open on time Monday for the Bangsamoro Organic Law Plebiscite.
Jimenez said only 24 of the 374 precincts in Cotabato City experienced delay in opening because some teachers refused to serve at the last minute.
“There was a delay in the opening because some teachers backed out at the last minute,” he said.
Jimenez said the teachers were eventually replaced by members of the Philippine National Police.
“About 77 members of the PNP had to perform Plebiscite Committee (PlebCom) functions,” he said.
Asked for the reason why the teachers backed out, Jimenez said the teachers claimed to have received threatening text messages.
“We don’t know the exact nature of the messages. But they said they choose not to serve…the problem there is they already filled up the necessary forms the night before. So when their alternate came in, the processing took some time…that contributed to the delay,” he said.
Despite the delays, he said the overall conduct of the BOL plebiscite was “successful” especially in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur.
“With the exception of the 24 precincts, the plebiscite has been successful, very peaceful, and 100 percent opened on time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers is set to convene today (Tuesday) at the COMELEC main office in Intramuros, Manila.
The Comelec expects to complete the national canvassing of votes within four days.