“The COC and the Summary Statement of Votes are the same. There are no discrepancies as far as the votes are concerned,” National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers secretary Consuelo Diola said.
Edd Gumban/File
Bangsamoro Organic Law ratified as poll body clears Cotabato results
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec), convening as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBOC), yesterday ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

NPBOC secretary Consuelo Diola also said there was no discrepancy in the votes for “yes” and “no” in Cotabato City, citing the report of the audit group which re-tabulated the certificates of canvas (COC).

Diola reported that there were 36,682 votes for “yes” and 24,994 votes for “no” in Cotabato.  

“The COC and the Summary Statement of Votes are the same. There are no discrepancies as far as the votes are concerned,” she added.

But according to Comelec-NPBOC chairman Sheriff Abas, while there was no discrepancy in the number of votes cast for “yes” and “no,” there was a difference in the number of registered voters and voters who actually voted.

Abas maintained that such discrepancy was just a defect in form.

Based on the canvassing results, the residents in the ARMM favored the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM), with 1,540,0017 votes for “yes” and 198,750 votes for “no.”  

Since the Jan. 21 plebiscite yielded favorable results for the BOL, the Comelec will hold the second leg of the plebiscite on Feb. 6 in 28 barangays in North Cotabato that are not part of the ARMM but are contiguous to BOL territories.

The “yes” vote won in the first plebiscite last Jan. 21 in the ARMM, Cotabato City and Basilan province except Isabela City, results of the canvassing yesterday by the Comelec, convening as NPBOC, showed.

The ratification of the BOL replaces the ARMM with BARMM.

In Isabela City, the “yes” vote got 19,032 while “no” bagged 22,441. There are 71,124 registered voters in the city but only 41,748 voted.

In Basilan province, the “yes” vote got 144,640 while the “no” vote garnered 8,487.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the results indicated that Isabela City will not be included in the BARMM despite the favorable BOL results in Basilan province, its “mother unit.” 

“We follow the ‘double majority rule’ here. It means that voters in Isabela should agree to be included in BARMM while the residents in Basilan should consent to the inclusion,” Jimenez said.

He noted that based on the so-called Umali doctrine, “all parties with interests in the outcome of the plebiscite should be consulted.”

The NPBOC has completed the canvassing of all the COCs from Cotabato City and from the ARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan and from the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

During the canvassing of Isabela City ballots, tension ran high when Bangsamoro Transition Commission legal counsel Raissa Jajurie claimed that there was fraud in the canvassing.

Jajurie alleged that there were 80 plebiscite returns that contained erasures but were canvassed in the city-level canvassing. 

“I’m just afraid that the (COC), which is now about to be canvassed, would reflect number of votes that would not be reflective of results of the voters in Isabela City,” Jajurie said.

But Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Janjurie’s allegation of fraud was on the plebiscite results, not in the NPBOC canvass.

Guanzon added that because of this there was no ground to stop the canvassing.

‘Thrive in peace’

Meanwhile, the outgoing chief executive of the ARMM has urged voters to leave to the Comelec the resolution of issues regarding the Jan. 21 plebiscite.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, chairman of the regional peace and order council, yesterday said the voters who voted for or against the ratification of the BOL must accept the result of the plebiscite and end their hostile discourse about it on social media.

Hataman added that legal questions on the conduct of the plebiscite, reports of harassment of voters and other electoral anomalies must be subjected to due process.

“The Comelec has processes to address that,” Hataman told reporters through text yesterday.

Hataman’s second term as ARMM governor will end on June 30.

“Let us not be divided forever by that exercise. Let us pick the pieces together, restore the bridges, move on, thrive in peace and religious solidarity,” he said.

The BOL is the enabling measure for the replacement of the now 29-year-old ARMM with BARMM, based on two agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), namely the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

“Our focus now in the executive department of ARMM is the transition of leadership from ARMM to BARMM – for us, an answered prayer,” Hataman said.

The BARMM will initially be led by a transition body comprised of selected MILF leaders pending an election for its pioneering regional officials. – With John Unson

BANGSAMORO ORGANIC LAW COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS NATIONAL PLEBISCITE BOARD OF CANVASSERS
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