At the official and final canvassing of plebiscite votes yesterday afternoon at the Sangguniang Panlungsod hall, the board of canvassers noted that 22,441 voted “no” while 19,032 voted “yes”.
Edd Gumban
Isabela votes no; Cotabato mayor decries cheating
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2019 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Residents of Isabela City in Basilan province rejected the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), effectively expressing their refusal to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

At the official and final canvassing of plebiscite votes yesterday afternoon at the Sangguniang Panlungsod hall, the board of canvassers noted that 22,441 voted “no” while 19,032 voted “yes”.

Meanwhile, Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi told reporters that she has enlisted lawyers to contest the plebiscite results on the grounds of fraud and other irregularities.

Sayadi complained of discrepancies in the vote tally and said the issues must be resolved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

She claimed that many voters were harassed and forced by groups to vote in favor of the BOL.

In Isabela city, Basilan, the canvassing was hotly contested and delayed for two days, with supporters from both sides closely watching the proceedings after the voting concluded on Jan. 21.

It was the third time that Isabela, the former capital of Basilan since the province’s creation, rejected being part of the autonomous region – first was when the province opted not to be part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and second in 2001, a month after Isabela was granted city status when it opted out from the expanded ARMM while the rest of Basilan joined.

Vice Mayor Cherrylyn Akbar expressed her gratitude for respecting the decision to not be part of the BARMM.

Akbar maintained that Isabela, which is under the administrative jurisdiction of Zamboanga peninsula, will depend largely on the national government.

“We are not having worries that Isabela city will be left behind considering that we are part of the Republic of the Philippines and (we have) a President who is very supportive of our undertakings,” Akbar said.

But Akbar said Isabela’s position may change once they see “good development in the BARMM.”

“If we can see that BARMM is really good then maybe if there will be another plebiscite and there is no problem if they will accept us in the BARMM. Right now there are still doubts and what we want is (for the mind and hearts of the people to be respected),” Akbar added.

Canvassing deferred

The Comelec, convening as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBOC), has deferred the canvassing of the ballots for the BOL to tomorrow. 

Consuelo Diola, NPBOC secretary, said they reset the canvassing because the board had not received any ballots as of 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

The NPBOC received the first certificate of canvass from Cotabato at around 4:48 p.m. delivered by the city’s acting election officer Romel Rama.

In a phone interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez reported that Cotabato posted the lowest voter turnout at 54.22 percent. For provinces, Sulu was the lowest at 80.2 percent.

Although the canvassing of plebiscite votes in Cotabato has been completed, the Comelec noted discrepancy in the data yesterday.

Jimenez said the discrepancy was noted in the “statistics for the number of registered voters of Cotabato and the number of voters who actually voted in the city.”

But Jimenez assured the public that “such error can be raised and corrected during the national canvass without affecting the outcome of the plebiscite, either in Cotabato city alone or throughout the entire plebiscite area.”

The Comelec will hold another referendum on Feb. 6 in 28 barangays in Lanao del Norte if the “yes” vote wins in the Jan. 21 plebiscite.

Malacañang has declared Feb. 6 a non-working holiday in Lanao del Norte and parts of North Cotabato.

The declaration covers Lanao del Norte except Iligan city and the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, Pigkayawan and Tulunan in North Cotabato. 

Malacañang also called for the results of the plebiscite in Cotabato to be upheld.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the public must yield to the rule of the majority.

“Consistent with the position of the President for the ratification of the BOL, we are pleased that the ‘yes’ vote has prevailed in Cotabato city, based on the complete but unofficial tally of the Comelec,” Panelo said.

A least 3,209 police personnel will be deployed in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato on Feb. 6.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said they will be closely watching the two provinces, especially Lanao del Norte, which is considered a critical area in the midterm elections in May.


The BARMM that will soon be constituted has been allocated P62 billion this year, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday.

For his part, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III commended the Comelec and the PNP for the peaceful conduct of the BOL plebiscite.

Outgoing ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman has assured the public of the smooth transition of ARMM to BARMM if the BOL is ratified.

Hataman added that he would be meeting with officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

Maguindanao Rep. Sandra Sema will sponsor a bill next week naming Cotabato City as the seat of BARMM.

In a text message yesterday, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said he was grateful to the voters for the ratification of the BOL.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu maintained that not a single untoward incident was recorded in the province on Monday.  – With John Unson, Sheila Crisostomo, Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Emmanuel Tupas, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe


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