The plebiscite that would decide on dividing Maguindanao province went smoothly and was successful, with results expected to be released Sunday afternoon, the head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Saturday.
Besides a 30-minute delay in the start of the polls in Talayan town, where a voting center took time to be prepared, no other interruptions, violent incidents, or irregularities were noticed by the Comelec on the morning of the plebiscite, poll chairman George Garcia said.
Garcia said all but one precinct opened at 7 a.m. for the 818,790 registered voters who decided if the province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao should be split into two—Maguindanao del Norte (12 municipalities) and Maguindanao del Sur (24 municipalities).
He visited a polling place in Datu Abdullah Sangki town to observe the conduct of the polls and thanked plebiscite committee members for their work.
Speaking to reporters afterward, the Comelec chief said poll workers in the 36 municipalities had all arrived and prepared ahead of time.
More than 818,000 registered voters were expected to participate in the plebiscite. All 467 voting precincts opened on schedule for the Maguindanao plebiscite on Saturday, Comelec reported.
“This means that our preparations were successful because all the election paraphernalia arrived on time, all Electoral Board members were there on time. We thank all Maguindanaoans. You have shown that you are in control of your future,” he added.
Garcia said he is hoping more than 60 percent participated on the actual turnout of the voting that ended at 3 p.m., as voters within a 30-meter radius of polling precincts by that time were accommodated.
“The process with the proclamation will not be completed today (Saturday). It may take until tomorrow morning. Until tomorrow afternoon at the latest,” he said.
Meanwhile, poll watchdog LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Elections) Philippines posted on Facebook that based on its observations in voting centers from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., “most of the Plebiscite Committee arrived on time and without delays, prepared the setup of the polling places and accomplished the preliminary activities.”
“Voting influx peaked at 7:30 a.m. onwards, 30 minutes later than the expected time. A low number of voters were observed waiting for the voting to be opened,” LENTE added.
In May 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11550, or the Charter of the Provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
If the “yes” votes win, Maguindanao del Norte will be made up of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay.
Under Maguindanao del Sur are Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.
The capital towns and seats of government of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur shall be the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Buluan, respectively.