Lanao del Norte rejects inclusion of towns in Bangsamoro region

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Lanao del Norte has rejected the inclusion of key areas of its province in the new Bangsamoro region.

Lanao del Norte voted against the inclusion of all 6 municipalities that wanted to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), according to unofficial results from the Provincial Plebiscite Board of Canvassers on Thursday, February 7. The 6 municipalities are Tagoloan, Balo-i, Pantar, Munai, Nunungan, and Tangkal.

Residents from 22 towns in Lanao de Norte joined the plebiscite. For the 6 towns to be included, majority in both the municipality itself and 21 other towns had to agree to its inclusion.  

The results are as follows:

Balo-i

vs

All other towns on Balo-i's inclusion:

Munai

vs

All other towns on Munai's inclusion:

Nunungan

vs

All other towns on Nunungan's inclusion:

Pantar

vs

All other towns on Pantar's inclusion:

Tagoloan

vs

All other towns in Tagoloan's inclusion:

Tangkal

vs

All other towns on Tangkal's inclusion:

Lanao del Norte’s vote is consistent with its voting history as it also rejected the inclusion of its territory in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2001. (READ: Why the second Bangsamoro plebiscite matters)

The challenge of a double majority was also once again too big to overcome. Residents in the rest of the province overruled the vote of the 6 municipalities, which chose to join the BARMM. (Iligan City, an independent city, did not take part in the plebiscite.)    

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) allows the rest of their mother units of Lanao del Norte to have the final say. It was among the among the more contentious provisions in the BOL.

This is a big win for the ruling Dimaporo clan who had campaigned loud and hard to keep Lanao del Norte territories out of the new Bangsamoro region.

It also means that the BARMM will not expand its territory to include the 6 towns where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has strong presence.

The vote follows the first plebiscite held on January 21 that saw the ARMM as well as Cotabato City  ratifying the BOL and agreeing to join the BARMM that the law created.

High tensions

The vote comes against the backdrop of a province on edge as 3 grenade explosions hit parts of the province mere hours before the plebiscite. The heightened presence of cops and soldiers were felt around towns where tanks roved the streets and armed cops patrolled communities.

People of the province were also caught in the struggle between the ruling Dimaporo clan and the MILF.

The Dimaporos were vocal up to the last minute as they fought against the inclusion of the 6 Lanao del Norte towns, claiming it would weaken and divide the province.

Until the day before the plebiscite, Lanao del Norte 2nd District Representative Abdullah Dimaporo also said his family was confident they would see a "landslide victory" to keep the province's territories out of BARMM.

Their supporters were equally aggressive as tense stand-offs and confrontations between “pro” and “anti” inclusion were seen in different parts of the province on the eve of the plebiscite.

MILF commander Abdullah Macapaar, better known as Commander Bravo, Commander Bravo had made an aggressive push for a "yes" vote with video messages urging residents to vote yes for peace or endure their "continued armed struggle." – Rappler.com

Read Rappler's full coverage of the Bangsamoro plebiscite here: Bangsamoro Vote 2019

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image