A month before Bangsamoro plebiscite, gov't entities sign deal on info drive

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) signed a deal for an information campaign on the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite in 2019.

OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, BTC Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, and Comelec Commissioner Al Parreño signed the memorandum of agreement on the information, education, and communication campaign (IEC) on Friday, December 21.

The signing came just a month before the plebiscite scheduled on January 21 for the provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato, and on February 6 for the 6 municipalities in North Cotabato and Lanao Del Norte. The campaign period started on December 7.

Poll watchdog Legal Network of Truthful Elections (Lente) earlier criticized the delay in Comelec’s information drive.

“Our partners, who have access to information about BOL, said they still don’t have much knowledge about the content of the BOL. We could assume that those living in the far-flung barangays still have no access to the same information,” Lente executive director Rona Ann Caritos said in an earlier press conference, as quoted in the Business Mirror.

“Let us remember ARMM has a high illiteracy rate. So posters and primers would not be a very effective source of information there. This is why Comelec should fast-track holding the said [town hall] meetings,” Caritos said.

Memorandum of agreement

But for OPAPP and the BTC, the partnership will ensure a smooth-sailing and “credible” plebiscite.

“With this new partnership in conducting IECs (information, education, and communication) or voters education that we are about to formalize with the Comelec, I’m very confident that we will be able to ensure that the public and the voters will have correct and timely information on the conduct of the plebiscite,” Galvez said.

“We promise that this will be a fair and honest election. We will be giving all the Bangsamoro people their free will to choose where they want to belong.” he said.

‘[This is] another milestone in guaranteeing credibility, orderliness, and acceptability in the plebiscite,” said Jaafar, as he called on OPAPP and Comelec to help prevent threats and intimidation of voters.

“We appeal to Secretary [Galvez] and Comelec na sana hindi mangyari ang mga ganitong pangyayari tuwing election sa mga lugar namin (to ensure these things happening during elections would not happen to our areas),” Jaafar said.

Under the MOA, OPAPP is tasked to prepare and provide voter information, education, and communication materials and assist the Comelec and the BTC in information dissemination activities.

Comelec will be the one to supervise the conduct of voter IECs, including sectoral campaigns for indigenous communities, women, youth, religious, professionals, and public and private sector employees in every barangay, municipality, city and province.

Aside from helping the preparation of materials, the BTC will also provide resource persons and technical assistance during IECs. – Rappler.com