No credible threat to BOL plebiscite, says Lanao del Norte police chief

Sofia Tomacruz
No credible threat to BOL plebiscite, says Lanao del Norte police chief
Provincial police chief Leopoldo Cabanag says some 2,500 cops have been deployed throughout Lanao del Norte to secure voting sites on February 6

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Amid concerns over security and alleged intimidation of voters, the Lanao del Norte police chief assured residents that there are no credible threats to the Bangsamoro plebiscite on Wednesday, February 6. 

Provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Leopoldo Cabanag gave the assurance to the public in a media interview on Tuesday, February 5. He said some residents claimed incidents of intimidation as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made their way into the city to watch over the vote. 

“Walang threats sa ngayon kaya ‘di dapat matakot tao. ‘Yung mga MILF naman ay sumusunod sa usapan (There are no threats as of now so people should not be scared. The MILF are following the agreements made),” Cabanag said. 

He also said that the police were on heightened alert to ensure the safety of voters for part two of the Bangsamoro plebiscite which aims to ask the plebiscite areas – Lanao del Norte (except Iligan City) and North Cotabato – if they want to join the BARMM. (READ: Most youth in Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato favor BARMM inclusion)

Cabanag said some 2,500 cops were deployed to secure voting sites throughout the province. 

The police appealed to residents to remain in the province, after it was reported that several families had evacuated to neighboring Misamis Occidental due to concerns over supposed violence during the plebiscite.

The police said about 14 families or 68 individuals from the municipalities of Baroy, Kapatagan, Lala, and Sultan Naga Dimaporo had left the province starting Sunday, February 3.

The Commission on Elections earlier said security was the main concern for the February 6 plebiscite, after deadly blasts rocked Jolo City and Zamboanga City

The MILF has campaigned hard for the inclusion of the 6 Lanao del Norte municipalities – Tagoloan, Balo-i, Pantar, Munai, Nunungan, and Tangcal – in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

But winning the territories will not be easy. The ruling powerful Dimaporo clan has openly opposed the inclusion of the towns in the Bangsamoro region. 

For the concerned localities to become part of BARMM, their mother units have to vote “yes” as well. Without the double majority, these Muslim-dominated localities cannot join the new Bangsamoro region.

Part one of the Bangsamoro plebiscite, which was held on January 21, ended with voters ratifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law that creates the BARMM. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.