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Bombings haunt BOL vote; 3k troops deploy

Explosives on a motorcycle went off near a military checkpoint in Maguindanao on Sunday, just one day ahead of the final round of a plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law in Mindanao.

Nobody was hurt as the driver of the motorcycle, seeing the checkpoint, turned around and parked the vehicle on the side of the road, said Maj. Arvin Incinas, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

The bomb went off about 100 to 200 meters from the checkpoint in Barangay Tambunan, Talayan town, at noon Sunday.

A similar explosion was set off in Cotabato City in the early hours of Jan. 21, the first round of the plebiscite.

The blast came as some 3,000 troops were deployed in various parts of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato provinces for the Feb. 6 plebiscite.

The voting will cover six towns of Lanao del Norte—Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal, along with 67 barangays in North Cotabato and seven towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Tulunan.

Capt. Clint Antipala, Spokesman of the 1st Infantry Division, said they have not detected any potential threats, but said they were prepared for any eventuality.

A week ahead of today’s plebiscite, government forces heightened security measures in sensitive areas where the polling would take place, as well as in the adjacent provinces.

Acting of the presence of 10 fully armed men, police from Lambayong municipal station and troops from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion swooped down on Barangay Zeneben, Lambayong and seized a locally made M79 grenade launcher, a homemade 12-gauge shotgun and various ammunition from Bai Mashia Sangkai and Amando Ebad, who were arrested.

Hours later, authorities raided a gambling site in the same village and confiscated 36 undocumented motorcycles.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said the operations stemmed from the complaints of residents.

The Commission on Elections said the plebiscite for the inclusion of six municipalities of Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao would push through Tuesday, despite recent bomb attacks in Jolo, Sulu, and Zamboanga.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the authorities were still trying to identify the two Indonesian suicide bombers in the church attack that killed 22 people in Jolo, Sulu.

“We are expecting a 70 percent voter turnout for the second round of the plebiscite for the inclusion of additional areas under the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

The plebiscite will determine the areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato that will join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Jimenez said they hoped to duplicate the success of the Jan. 21 vote, and expected result of the voting in four days.

The first round of the plebiscite covered the existing areas of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the ratification of BOL question and Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan, asking voters there if they wished to be under the jurisdiction of the new region.

The “yes” vote for the ratification won with over 1.5 million votes as against around 198,000 “no” votes.

As of November 2018, there are 352,494 registered voters in Lanao del Norte and 286,867 in North Cotabato, the Comelec said.

Last month, the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers ratified the BOL creating the BARMM, replacing the ARMM after the “yes” votes prevailed in most areas covered by the first round.

Isabela City voted against its inclusion in the BARMM, however.

The peace advocate International Alert, a non-government organization, said its own surveys showed that most of the youth want the six Lanao del Norte towns and 67 North Cotabato barangays to be included in the BARMM.

Nikki de la Rosa, country manager of International Alert, said based on their latest survey, 71 percent of the youth in Lanao del Norte are in favor of the BOL and would vote for the inclusion of the municipalities of Tangkal, Tagaloan, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan and Baloi in the BARMM.

At least 83 percent of the youth from the towns of Pikit, Kabacan, Carmen, Midsayap, Pigkawayan and Aleosan in North Cotabato back the inclusion of 67 barangays, she added,

The International Alert’s survey was conducted among youth aged 18 to 35 in Lanao del Norte from Jan. 11 to Jan. 16 and in North Cotabato from Jan. 24 to Jan. 27. With Rio N. Araja and PNA

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