Maguindanao plebiscite

Police see no Maguindanao hotspot but step up security ahead of plebiscite

Rommel Rebollido
Police see no Maguindanao hotspot but step up security ahead of plebiscite

SECURITY. Authorities inspect a plebiscite center in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, in time for the plebiscite set for September 17, 2022.

Datu Saudi Ampatuan police

Some 1,200 cops are fielded and many of them are manning 233 checkpoints set up in strategic areas across Maguindanao

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Police identified no town in Maguindanao where violence is anticipated during the province-wide plebiscite on Saturday, September 17, but security forces have gone on heightened alert just the same as thousands are expected to go out to decide the fate of the province.

Maguindanao police director Colonel Ruel Sermese said some 1,200 cops were fielded and many of them were manning 233 checkpoints set up in strategic areas across the province to enforce a gun ban ordered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as early as August.

So far, Sermese said, police have arrested and charged only one gun-ban violator.

“There are no hotspots identified, but we will still be on high alert,” he said.

Despite the gun ban, Maguindanao has been beset with gun violence and killings, the most recent of which was the ambush that saw Ampatuan town police chief Lieutenant Reynaldo Samson and his aide killed, and three others wounded.

None of the cases were plebiscite-related, according to the police.

Sermese said the cops will secure Comelec officials and personnel from Manila who will arrive on Thursday and Friday, September 15 and 16, to oversee the plebiscite that would determine whether or not Maguindanao would be split into two provinces.

In a news briefing in Manila, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said he will fly to Maguindanao to personally oversee the conduct of the plebiscite.

Sermese said the Philippine National Police and military will beef up the present security forces in Maguindanao in time for the Saturday plebiscite.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will send an augmentation force, too.

Maguindanao election supervisor Udtog Tago said some 1,699 clustered precincts covering Maguindanao’s 508 barangays are ready for the plebiscite ballots of the province’s 898,790 voters.

The plebiscite precincts will be open from 7 am to 3 pm on Saturday.

Tago said the Comelec expects the results to be announced by the Maguindanao Plebiscite Board of Canvassers on Sunday, September 18.

The board will be based in Buluan, the capital of Maguindanao, and not Cotabato City, the BARMM regional center, as earlier planned. The plebiscite is funded by the Maguindanao provincial government which set aside P90 million for the political exercise. –

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