MANILA, Philippines – Maguindanao has an important event on Saturday, September 17, as the southern Philippine province opens its polling places for hundreds of thousands of residents who will decide on the future of their home.
The plebiscite will determine whether a 2021 law that split the province into Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur will be ratified.
Here are the crucial details about Saturday’s electoral exercise.
Unlike national elections which are mostly automated, the Maguindanao plebiscite will be fully manual, from the voting process itself, to the counting of ballots, to the canvassing of results.
In Filipino and Arabic languages, the ballot asks the question, “Do you agree to divide the province of Maguindanao into two smaller provinces, to be named as Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, in accordance with Republic Act No. 11550?”
Ballots in the possession of the municipal treasurer’s office will be delivered to polling places in the early morning of Saturday.
“For those far-flung areas, we have what we call early delivery, taking into consideration the distance, the transportation facilities available, and the security issues and concerns,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) deputy executive director Teofisto Elnas Jr. said on Thursday, September 15.
The plebiscite voting period will officially begin at 7 am and will last until 3 pm on Saturday.
There will be 501 voting centers, 1,906 clustered precincts, and 5,390 individual established precincts across 545 barangays in 36 municipalities.
Each clustered precinct can only accommodate a maximum of 600 people.
There are 818,790 registered voters in Maguindanao who are eligible to cast their ballots on plebiscite day.
A total of 5,718 teachers have signed up to serve in the plebiscite committees, which will each be composed of a chairman, a poll clerk, and a third member. There will also be 108 members of the municipal board of canvassers (MBOC) and three members of the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC).
As per security, two police officers will be deployed per voting center, while the Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy nearly 3,000 troops on the ground to assist the Philippine National Police.
In the event that teachers fail to assume their duty on plebiscite day due to security issues, PNP personnel have been trained to act as plebiscite committee members.
Waiting for results
An announcement of plebiscite results is not expected within the day.
After polls close at 3 pm on Saturday, plebiscite committees will start counting the ballots, and subsequently produce election returns which will be submitted to the MBOC. Certificates of canvass will be generated at the municipal level on Saturday evening, but not all MBOCs will be able to deliver these COCs to the PBOC right away.
At around noontime on Sunday, September 18, the PBOC is expected to have received all COCs from the municipalities. The Comelec anticipates to formally announce the plebiscite results on Sunday evening.
That said, local officials have been expecting a win for the “yes” vote, amid lack of visible opposition campaigners. Advocates for the split have said dividing the province into two would improve citizens’ access to basic services.
Ban on liquor, firearms
A liquor ban will be imposed on the day of the plebiscite.
A gun ban, meanwhile, will last until September 24, which is the last day of the plebiscite period.