By Leslie Ann Aquino and Aaron Recuenco
The Commission on Elections considers the conduct of the February 6 Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite a success.
“It is successful so far,” Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said in a press briefing less than an hour before voting closed Wednesday.
A lot of places, he said reported a 75 percent voter turnout.
“We have reports of turnout approaching 75 or better…we are waiting for other places to report. But again like I said in some places in Lanao del Norte, 75 percent or better turnout has been reported,” said Jimenez.
The poll official said this was very high despite security concerns.
“Considering our concern that the turnout will be depressed because of concerns and fear. But people still went out to vote…the stream of arrivals is steady,” Jimenez said.
“The population in these areas are very politically active. I suppose that would be one of the reason. They feel strongly about these elections,” he added.
Jimenez also revealed that 100 percent of the polling precincts opened.
“By 8:30AM, we received the report of 100 percent of the precints of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato opened and functioning,” he said.
The plebiscite was held in the entirety of Lanao del Norte (except in Iligan City) and in seven towns of North Cotabato.
The National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBOC), meantime, will convene Thursday at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila.
The Comelec en banc, sitting as NPBOC, is set to canvass a total of 8 Certificates of Canvass (COCs) namely the Provincial COC from Lanao del Norte and one Municipal COC each from Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Tulunan in North Cotabato.
Three bomb blasts
Unidentified men launched three bomb attacks in Lanao del Norte in an apparent bid to sabotage the conduct of the second Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite. But security officials said the explosions did not scare voters from going to the polling precincts Wednesday.
In fact, Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that at least 50 percent of the registered voters have already cast their votes as of noon Wednesday.
“These were probably intended to scare the people for BOL plebiscite. But these are all under investigation and as of now, there are already two persons of interest,” said Albayalde.
“The voting started 8 a.m. Everything is peaceful and we continue to secure polling centers in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato,” he added.
At around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, an improvised explosive device exploded in Barangay Maranding in Lala town of Lanao del Norte, followed by another blast near the multi-purpose gym of Kauswagan town 20 minutes later.
Another explosion occurred at around 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the premises of Mindanao State University (MSU) Municipal High School in Sultan Naga Dimaporo.
There was no reported casualty in the three explosions.
The three towns are not included in the list of areas which would take part in the plebiscite.
The plebiscite covered the towns of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and 39 barangays in the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan and Pikit in North Cotabato.
“The perpetrators did not go through the checkpoints, that means that they are not outsiders. So what we did is to intensify the security in polling places,” said Albayalde.
There were 588 polling centers in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.
A total of 7,312 policemen and soldiers were deployed to secure the polling places and the roads leading to the precincts.
In Lanao del Norte, a total of 3,463 policemen were tapped, some coming from Central Visayas. In North Cotabato, a total of 1,410 soldiers and policemen were deployed. At least 1,400 more policemen, 400 of them from Central Luzon and CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) were deployed.
The first plebiscite was held on January 21 and covered Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan.