At least two persons were killed while another was wounded when unidentified armed men opened fire at them Friday night in Sultan Kudarat even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines geared up to thwart security threats ahead of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite
The attack happened hours after the send-off rites for 20,000 troops tasked to secure the plebiscite.
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Western Mindanao Command spokesman Maj. Arvin John Encinas said the still unidentified victims were traversing the Davao-Cotabato National Highway on board a white and black Honda XRM tricycle when they were fired upon by the suspects.
Encinas said one of the victims was killed on the spot while the other fatality died upon arrival at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.
The wounded victim was identified as Nasser Sanday, a resident of Barangay Nituan, Parang, Maguindanao.
Earlier, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal visited troops in Camp Ranao, Marawi City to ensure their readiness in responding to any possible threats during the plebiscite.
“We extend our full support to every soldier currently deployed to conduct vital security services in the City of Marawi and the Province of Lanao del Norte and the adjoining towns,” Madrigal said.
“The AFP is thankful for your service in this historic city at this critical time when peace through BOL ratification and rehabilitation through task force Bangon Marawi is at its most important phase,” he added.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde identified two terrorist groups that may attempt to disrupt the conduct of the BOL plebiscite.
He said the remnants of the Ansar Khilafa Philippines and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters will try to disrupt the electoral exercise, citing the recent bombing incident in Cotabato City.
“Although we see no immediate threat, we cannot take everything for granted because of the incidents of bombings, particularly in Cotabato City,” Albayalde said.
Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, for his part, called on the people whose provinces will likely form part of the envisioned Bangsamoro area to cast their votes on Monday and on Feb. 6.
“We would, therefore, like to call on everyone in the Bangsamoro not to waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cast your vote. The plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law is a momentous event for the Moro as well as non-Moro people residing in the proposed territory,” he said.
“This political exercise is an opportunity for them to assert their identity and choose their own destiny. By casting their vote, they are re-defining the Moro narrative as well as charting the future of Mindanao,” Galvez added.
The plebiscite is set to take place on Monday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao areas, Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City.
The Feb. 6 plebiscite will cover Lanao del Norte (except Iligan City) and six towns in North Cotabato.
There are some 2,839,659 registered voters in the areas covered by the plebiscite.
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