By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has received a total of 62 petitions for voluntary inclusion in the January 21, 2019 plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
In an interview, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said, of the said number, 56 petitions for inclusions were filed by local government units while the six other petitions were filed by registered voters.
Republic Act 11054 states that all other areas contiguous to the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) may submit a petition for voluntary inclusion.
“Subject to the approval of COMELEC, the territorial jurisdiction of the BAR may further include ‘all other contiguous areas where: the local government unit thereof, by way of a resolution, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite; or at least ten percent of the registered voters in the local government unit, by way of a petition, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite’,” said the poll body earlier.
“The petition shall state the specific areas of the BAR that the petitioning LGU claims to be contiguous to, the reasons for such claim, and that there is no pending boundary dispute involving the petitioning LGU,” added the Comelec.
Any registered voter of a contiguous LGU, the poll body said, may also initiate the filing of a petition, which must be supported by at least 10 percent of the registered voters therein.
Asked as to how many of the petitions would be approved, Jimenez did not give a number but said: Not all of them will succeed.
“But that is a significant number. You are looking whole barangays asking to join the BOL,” said Jimenez.
He said they also have petitions that are not exactly contiguous.
“There has been interest in some barangays to join the plebiscite areas. Unfortunately from initial evaluation, it doesn’t even look they are contiguous. So those petitions might fail because the law is very clear only those areas contiguous. And by contiguous ibig sabihin dikit-dikit yung territories. Only those areas will be entertained for inclusion,” Jimenez said.
Since the Comelec still has to decide on the petitions, he said they havent started printing the ballots yet.
To note, the territorial jurisdiction of the BAR is comprised of the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao; six municipalities in Lanao del Norte; 39 barangays in North Cotabato; Cotabato City in Maguindanao; and Isabela City in Basilan.