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LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – Huge crowds filled voting centers in Marawi City on Saturday morning, March 18, as two barangays here conducted a plebiscite on the proposed division of their respective villages into two.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia, who was in Marawi to personally witness the plebiscite, made the rounds on Saturday morning.
“Democracy is alive here in Marawi. It’s heartwarming that many residents went to polling places for a plebiscite even though it’s just for the creation of new barangays,” said Garcia, who toured with Commissioner Ernesto Maceda Jr.
“Maybe our turnout would be 90% to 92%,” he added.
The split was proposed after thousands of people who used to live at ground zero of the 2017 Marawi siege relocated – either temporarily or permanently – to barangays Sagonsongan and Boganga, which have seen significant population growth since.
If voters say “yes” to the split, a new village called Boganga II would be taken from the existing Barangay Boganga, while another new village called Datu Dalidigan would come from the current Sagonsongan.
On the ground, there is no loud opposition to the proposed creation of the new barangays.
“Our Muslim brothers and sisters are so eager to exercise their right [to vote], and this plebiscite is their clamor anyway,” said Commissioner Aimee Ferolino. “They are united in casting their vote and finally having what they want – additional barangays that will address their needs.”
“Because of the overpopulation of a barangay, everyone could not receive government aid,” said Sagonsongan registered voter Asmin Barao Saumay, who voted “yes” to the split.
The two barangays have a combined registered voter population of 1,472, but the number of inhabitants stands at 13,457.
Counting and canvassing of votes would commence right after polls close. Ferolino said results are expected before midnight Sunday, March 19.
Police forces are on standby for potential “spoilers of peace” but asserted the situation in the city ahead of the plebiscite was “peaceful” despite a gun attack earlier this week, which they said was an isolated case.
“All our security forces are in place. There is perimeter security. There is an assigned officer per strategic location, and we were assured [by the police],” Ferolino said on Friday.
The plebiscite is the first exclusive local electoral exercise in the once-besieged city since May 2017, when Islamic State militants captured Marawi. Fighting took months before the military neutralized enemies. – Rappler.com