Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani on Thursday urged her constituents to go out and vote and make their voices be counted during the referendum that would decide the fate of the Bangsomoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to be held on Jan. 21.
The mayor made this appeal as she bewailed the threats of violence and the smear campaigns made by certain personalities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose members are proponents of BARMM.
BARMM was created as part of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsomoro, which was the preliminary peace agreement made between the Philippine government and MILF. It was designed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Guiani noted that a considerable number of her constituents have expressed their desire to reject BARMM when they vote during the plebiscite.
“Various groups composed of prominent businessmen and others belonging to other sectors in Cotabato City have met with me and said that they will be opposing the ratification of the new region as they do want another system of government,” she said.
“But because of the strong influence of social media, rampant disinformation or ‘fake information’ is being spread by proponents of BARMM to convince and coerce constituents to vote ‘Yes’ at the referendum. These proponents have also created fake social media accounts to threaten those who oppose BARMM,” Guiani added.
The mayor also noted that she herself has been the subject of this disinformation campaign, as many of these fake accounts have been “spreading lies about her personal ad professional life.”
She said that as mayor and leader Cotabato City, she will not tolerate any form of harassment or disrespect from those who hide under fake social media accounts.
“I even made an attempt to find a peaceful resolution to this form and arranged a meeting with one of the MILF commanders, Wahig Tundok. We had an amicable meeting which was attended by the barangay captains of Cotabato City,” she said.
“Yet to our utter dismay, we learned about the insincerity in their commitment to peace in Cotabato City when Commander Tundok appeared in a video interview. In that interview, he said that they will attain victory in Cotabato City even if it takes bloodshed to achieve it. He went on to add that they’ve long been accustomed to resorting to violence to achieve their objectives,” she said.
The mayor assured the city, however, that although the people of Cotabato are peace-loving, her government, along with the barangay captains and local enforcers, will use every resource available to prevent this sector of the MILF from carrying out their threats.
“Thus I urge my constituents to go and vote during the referendum and show that we have no intention putting ourselves under the hands of those who have no respect to the people of Cotabato City. Along with our barangay officials, police officers, and the military, I assure that the upcoming plebiscite will be safe for everyone and that justice will be served,” she said.