FILE PHOTO: Members of the Philippine army man the checkpoint at the entrance of Maguindanao province, 11 May 2013. Security is tightened as political tension rises two days before the Philippine midterm election in the province. Maguindanao is among the election hot spots tagged by Comelec.
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – On January 21 next year, The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will hold the plebiscite in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), in Isabela City in Basilan, and in Cotabato City.
The plebiscite will determine if residents are in favor of the passage of the Bangasamoro Organic Law that will govern the proposed Bangsamoro region.
According to Comelec Spokesperson Director James Jimenez, a second plebiscite will be held in February in 19 barangays that wish to be included in the new Bangsamoro region.
“Ang unang plebisito ang dedesisyunan niya kung mararatify ba ang BOL o hindi. Ang susunod na eleksyon, ang susunod na plebisito para doon sa mga lugar na gustong sumali kung matutuloy ang pagsali nila sa Bangsamoro,” Jimenez explained in an interview with the program ‘Get It Straight with Daniel Razon’ on Tuesday (December 11).
Jimenez said the poll body has already printed 2.8 million ballots for the plebiscite which they have started distributing in areas where the plebiscite will be held.
Former Commissioner Samira Gutuc of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) hopes that the plebiscite will be a success.
She expressed concern of the possible consequences should the BOL fails citing the impending petition against its passage in the Supreme Court (SC).
“Baka the Supreme Court would look at the petition against the BOL favorably at baka hindi maiakyat ang batas BOL sa implimentasyon. Pagka walang BOL at walang boto ng ‘yes’ ngayong January, ay baka balik tayo sa ARMM at magkakagulo ang Mindanao ulit,” Gutuc explained.
On the other hand, the former commissioner believes that the recent approval to extend the martial law in Mindanao may not be favorable to the conduct of the plebiscite and the midterm elections in 2019.
“Martial Law will not help a free and shared democratic debate over BOL,” she argued.
Some opposition personalities who are running in next year’s elections agreed with Gutuc on the matter.
“Sa buong panahon na nasa ilalim ng martial law ang Mindanao, hindi umangat ang kabuhayan ng mga kababyan natin doon,” former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada said.
“Ang ikinakatakot natin dito, bumababa yung batayan sa pagdedeklara ng Martial Law kaya pwedeng ikasa na yung lahat ng elemento para magdeklara ng isang nationwide Martial Law,” former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay noted.
“Kapag sinabi nating Martial Law, that is an emergency power. May emergency pa ba sa Mindanao?” argued Atty Jose Manuel Diokno, a senatorial candidate in 2019.
Despite the oppositions, the Comelec and the Palace believe that the extension of Martial rule in Mindanao will benefit both the conduct of the plebiscite and the 2019 midterm elections.
“From the point of view of election administration nakabuti pa actually ang martial law. Ang presensya ng military, it pacifies the area and it minimizes yung mga attack yung mga decedent forces,” Director Jimenez said.
“I do not see any relation, what is the relation. In fact, martial law is even acceptable to people of Mindanao precisely because the security is kept. If there will be a plebiscite then people who would want to do something to derail the plebiscite, They will think twice because there is martial law. It’s even helpful,” Presidential Spokesperon Salvador Panelo concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)