Days before the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) assures the public that it will not allow "peace spoilers" to sabotage the historic voting on January 21, 2019.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año says that the government is ready just in case the communist terrorists, violent extremists, or anti-BOL groups will try to "wreak havoc and disrupt an all-important endeavor for peace in Mindanao".
"As much as the BOL is our ticket to a peaceful Mindanao, the plebiscite also poses as an opportunity for communist terrorists, extremists, and anti-BOL factions to sow violence and prevent the voting from happening. Thus, all hands are now on deck to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the plebiscite," says Año.
The DILG Chief says that elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with a combined force of 20,384 have been deployed to ensure a peaceful plebiscite for the people of ARMM and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato who will cast their votes.
He says that of that combined PNP and AFP force, 10,000 shall be deployed to secure various polling precincts while battalions of the PNP Special Action Force, and those from PNP Calabarzon and Central Luzon are on standby for any eventuality.
PNP officers shall also serve as Board of Election Inspectors should the peace and order situation so require. Elements of the PNP have been trained by Comelec for this purpose in previous national and local elections.
As ordered by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to all the security officials of the national and local government, the BOL plebiscite must be peacefully carried out and all efforts must be done to ensure that the voice of the people will be heard.
"We are not taking this sitting down. We just want this to be a peaceful exercise for the Mindanaoans to express their opinion regarding BOL kaya naman sa utos na din ng ating Pangulo, titiyakin naming magiging mapayapa ang araw na ito," says Año.
The military also tapped the assistance of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other groups to secure the orderly conduct of the plebiscite.
The BOL once ratified will be key in replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The first BOL plebiscite will cover ARMM and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato followed by a second plebiscite on February 6, 2019 which will focus on the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
Malacanang declared January 21, 2019 as a special (non-working) holiday “in order to give the people of the ARMM, Isabela City and Cotabato City the opportunity to actively and fully participate in the plebiscite and exercise their right to vote".