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Cotabato City Mayor Guiani to protest unofficial plebiscite results

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi  on Wednesday, January 23, disputed the unofficial results of the Bangsamoro plebiscite in her city, claiming "It did not reflect the true will of the people." (READ: In astounding twist, Cotabato City votes to join BARMM

The mayor told Rappler on Wednesday that she intends to file a protest before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and a manifestation on the discrepancy in the Certificate of Canvass on the city's votes.

"Yes, we are filing a protest. Nakita mo naman lahat ng ginawa nila (You saw what they did). From the threats the teachers received, to the grenades to scare the voters, to the thousands of MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) supporters who blocked the real voters," she told Rappler in a message. 

The night before, the City Plebiscite Board of Canvassers declared that a majority of Cotabato voters want the city to become part of the envisioned Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The votes in favor of BARMM inclusion stood at 36,682, beating the "no" votes by 11,688. There was a voter turnout of 54%.  

Sayadi also claimed there had been "violence" in some areas during the plebiscite and a supposed "statistical improbability" in the results for areas where she said "thousands of MILF outsiders dominated." (READ: Cotabato City mayor defends opposition to Bangsamoro law)

The Comelec's assessment of the plebiscite was that it was generally peaceful. Foreign observers shared the observation.

The mayor, who has been the biggest voice against BARMM inclusion in the city, also claims those who voted "no" now faced risks. 

"Those who voted 'no' are harassed now. Where will they go? Who can protect them?" she said. 

Sayadi also wants to call attention to the discrepancy in the Certificate of Canvass, the document that shows the results of the plebiscite in the city and is forwarded to the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers for the official count.

Asked by Rappler if she intends to file a manifestation in relation to the discrepancy, she said: "Yes. The lawyers are preparing."

In the COC, the number written down to show the number voters who actually voted  – 39,027 – is smaller than the total number of votes indicated which was at 61,676.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, however, said this was a mere "clerical error," an occurrence expected in manual elections such as the plebiscite. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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