Marawi gun attack ‘isolated case,’ not connected with plebiscite – police

Dwight de Leon

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Marawi gun attack ‘isolated case,’ not connected with plebiscite – police

GUN ATTACK. A CCTV recording shows an ambulance being used in carrying out a gun attack in Marawi City on Wednesday, March 15.

PNP-Lanao del Sur handout

Nearly 200 cops will be deployed on plebiscite day in Marawi to watch out for potential 'spoilers of peace'

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – Local security forces in Marawi said on Friday, March 17, that the situation in the city is generally peaceful in the run-up to a plebiscite, even as the city witnessed a gun attack earlier this week.

“That is an isolated case,” Marawi city police chief Lieutenant Colonel Gieson Baniaga said, referring to the incident on Wednesday, March 15, when gunmen used an ambulance to attack a food vendor. The victim was injured but is now in stable condition.

Marawi gun attack ‘isolated case,’ not connected with plebiscite – police

“Based on our information, the suspect has personal grudge against the target. He is also dependent on drugs, and was the acting leader of the Ganasi disaster risk reduction and management office, which is why he was able to use an ambulance to commit the crime,” he added.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy 188 personnel on plebiscite day to watch out for potential “spoilers of peace.”

The PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other deputized government agencies participated in the command conference led by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a day before the plebiscite to ensure that all bases are covered.

Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, the poll official in charge of the plebiscite, said authorities are ready for Saturday’s electoral exercise.

“We’re hoping for a high voter turnout. We’re hoping it will be above 50%,” she said.

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FAST FACTS: Marawi City’s March 18 plebiscite

FAST FACTS: Marawi City’s March 18 plebiscite
Why there’s a plebiscite

After the 2017 Marawi siege, internally displaced persons from the most affected areas moved to other barangays, which saw a steep increase in population.

Saturday’s plebiscite is decision-making time for residents of barangays Sagonsongan and Boganga, on whether they agree to divide their respective villages into two.

“Our barangay is finding it difficult to quell disturbance due to the high population,” said Ali Macabada, a 36-year-old peacekeeping action team member in Sagonsongan. “Dividing it would be a big help for us so that the place where we do our rounds would be smaller.”

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra, whose local government was behind the city ordinance that triggered the plebiscite, said creating new villages would augment services that authorities provide.

“The host barangays were overwhelmed by the relocations,” he explained.

Boganga now has a population of 6,320, while Sagonsongan has 7,137. There are 992 and 480 registered voters in these villages, respectively.

A win for the “yes” vote would lead to the creation of barangays Boganga II and Datu Dalidigan.

Marawi gun attack ‘isolated case,’ not connected with plebiscite – police
What to expect

Polls on Saturday open at 7 am and close at 3 pm.

The Comelec would immediately count and canvass the votes. An announcement of the results is expected to be made before midnight, Ferolino said.

“We cannot say what time [exactly]. It would depend on the weather. We’re just hoping that the weather tomorrow would be good. But counting would be fast because there are not a lot of registered voters,” she said.

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. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.