Aseanews Headline: ZAMBOANGA CITY- Sulu, Isabela City vote down BOL

A Muslim woman casts her ballot at a voting precinct. AFP Photo



ZAMBOANGA CITY: The capital of Basilan province, Isabela City, has joined Sulu province in rejecting the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL.

As a result, Isabela City, which is not part of the soon-to-be abolished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), will not join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or Barmm.


An autonomous entity with greater powers and control over natural resources, the Barmm replace the ARMM, as part of a 2014 peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The entire ARMM voted on Monday on whether or not to ratify the BOL passed by Congress last year, with the “yes” vote leading overwhelmingly in four out of five provinces.

Apprehension over the expected MILF dominance in the future Bangsamoro government fueled the “no” vote, which won handily in Isabela City and Sulu province.
Unlike Isabela City, however, Sulu has no choice but become part of the Barmm because it is already part of the existing autonomous region, which voted as a whole in the January 21 plebiscite.

The governor of Sulu, Abdusakur “Toto” Tan 2nd, has a pending petition before the Supreme Court to declare the BOL unconstitutional.

The “yes” vote, however, won a major victory in Cotabato City, which is part of the ARMM province of Maguindanao but not part of the autonomous region. Cotabato City will, thus, be part of the Barmm and serve as its capital.


Cotabato City’s “yes” votes totaled 36,682 while the “no” votes got 29,994.

Another plebiscite will be held on February 6, with residents in Lanao del Norte deciding whether six towns will be part of the Barmm. Residents in North Cotabato will also vote on the inclusion of 67 villages in the new autonomous region.

Isabela City Vice Mayor Cherrylyn Akbar and Jann Akbar, a strong advocate for the establishment of a federal government, spearheaded the “NO to BOL” campaign in the city.

Wednesday’s final plebiscite tally showed Isabela with 22,441 voting for “no” to BOL and 19,630 voting “yes.”

“We are so happy and the voice of the people is heard loud and clear. We rejected the BOL,” Akbar said after receiving news of the results of the referendum.

Although Isabela rejected BOL, municipalities in the province voted for the ratification of the organic law.

“What’s important here is that Isabela will never be a part of the so-called Bangsamoro autonomous region,” Akbar said.

Sulu rejected the BOL, with 163,526 residents voting “no” and 137,630 for its ratification. A total of 301,196 registered voters participated during the plebiscite held on Monday.

“It (BOL) will not prosper in Sulu. We do not want to be part of the Bangsamoro region. We are Tausugs, we are Bangsa Sug. Our people have spoken and they should respect our stand,” said former governor Sakur Tan, the spokesman and special envoy of the Royal Council of the Sulu Sultanate.

Tan said the Tausugs wanted out of the autonomous region and be part again of the Zamboanga Peninsula or Region 9.

The ARMM is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces.

Lanao del Sur saw 513,155 registered voters cast their votes. Of the number, a total of 503,420 “yes” votes were recorded while “no” got 9,735, according to local canvassers.

Maguindanao overwhelmingly voted “yes,” with 599,581 votes. “No” votes totaled 9,096. A total of 608,846 residents voted on Monday.

In the partial and unofficial count relayed by the Western Mindanao Command, the province of Tawi-Tawi got 151,788 “yes” votes and 10,307 “no” votes, while Basilan recorded 146,898 “yes” and 6,486 “no.”

In Manila, the Comelec en banc, sitting as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBC), moved for the second time the start of its official canvassing as it had yet to receive certificates of canvass (CoCs).

The NPBC will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Discrepancies were noted in the figures that appeared on the CoCs of Sulu and Cotabato City.

The CoC from Sulu indicated that there were 137,630 “yes” votes and 163,526 “no” votes, or a total of 301,156. The total did not tally with the 301,196 who voted, or a difference of 40 votes.

The CoC from Cotabato City showed a disparity of 22,649 votes. The CoC indicated that of the 71,963 registered voters, 39,027 voted. But the total number of “yes” and “no” votes was only 61,676.

Jimenez explained that there was “clerical” error in the CoCs from Cotabato City and Sulu, adding that they would be corrected during the national canvassing.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, in a radio interview, said the city would file a protest against the results of the plebiscite, claiming there was massive disenfranchisement of voters.

Malacañang on Wednesday urged those against the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro region to honor the result.

“All the major players, pro and con, must now come together and work together for the success of the common aspiration of the Bangsamoro people, which is to have a progressive and peaceful Mindanao,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said.


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