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BOL plebiscite set, voting ‘fluid’

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Majority of the youth in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao would vote “yes” to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, according to a survey done by the peace group International Alert Philippines.

Nikki dela Rosa, IAP country manager, said based on their survey of 328 youth respondents in areas that are set to vote in the plebiscite on Jan. 21–ARMM, Cotabato City, and Isabela City—70 percent are in favor of the BOL, up from 60.4 percent in a similar poll of 614 respondents in December 2018.

But Dela Rosa said there was a dramatic increase in “no” votes in the highly contested cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday told voters to say “Yes” to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law ahead of the plebiscite on Monday and on February 6.

At a pro-BOL assembly in Cotabato City, Duterte pitched voters to use the plebiscite as a “peaceful means” to “finally” correct the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people in his home region of Mindanao.

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future which means, ladies and gentlemen, my beloved Moro brother or sister, please vote yes,” Duterte said, drawing applause from the audience.

In Cotabato City, the “no votes” grew to 32 percent, up from 13 percent in December. In Isabela, the “no” votes rose to 35 percent from only 8.8 percent in December.

“These data on youth preference is important because intention to vote is fluid. Even those who declared they will not go to the polls may change their mind before the plebiscite,” she said.

She did not say how the respondents were chosen, what ages constituted a “youth,” when the surveys were conducted, or what the margin of error of the IA survey was.

Jan. 21 has been declared a special non-working day in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as well as in Isabela and Cotabato to enable residents to vote in the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Another plebiscite will be held on Feb. 6 in Lanao del Norte, Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigkawan towns in North Cotabato and other areas seeking inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

READ: 15 Catholic leaders go for BOL

According to the International Alert Philippines, those that intend to vote rose from 54.5 percent in October to November 2018 to 77 percent in January this year.

Dela Rosa noted an increase in youth familiarity of the Bangsamoro Organic Law from 84 percent before the campaign period to 93.5 percent in 2019 as one of the major reasons for the possible increase in voter turnout and an increase in support of the measure.

READ: 15 Catholic leaders go for BOL

The group’s survey showed the rise in the percentage of those who are in favor was most dramatic in Tawi-Tawi, where support grew to 82.2 percent from last year’s 46.2 percent.

In the previous study, the group noted Sulu as distinct from the rest in terms of the higher proportion of youth voting “no” to the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

“The Sulu youth are outliers as the ‘no’ vote remains resilient, and in fact widened from 17.5 percent in 2018 to 25.6 percent in 2019,” De la Rosa said.

“Whether or not the Bangsamoro Organic Law wins in this plebiscite, more work needs to be done in engaging the youth and convincing them, especially those who remain to be against the BOL, of their role in making the law work in their favor and work for the Bangsamoro people,” Dela Rosa said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday reiterated the government’s strong support for the BOL.

READ: Duterte to attend pro-BOL assembly

“We in the national government, most especially in your Department of National Defense (DND), fully support the BOL and the BARMM. For all we know, only unity and love of country can propel us to greater heights as one nation,” Lorenzana said in his speech at the “BOL Miting de Avance” at the Mindanao State University campus municipality of Jolo, Sulu.

Lorenzana noted that the measure will help the Bangsamoro people attain social justice, equality, peace Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. assured the public that security measures were in place for the Jan. 21 plebiscite.

Albayalde said more than 20,000 police and soldiers would be deployed to secure the plebiscite.

Monitoring of areas with known armed groups continued, Madrigal said.

The Commission on Elections has prepared 2.1 million ballots for voters of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, and Isabela City in Basilan, where the plebiscite will be held on Monday.

The upcoming plebiscite will determine the fate of the BOL, which seeks to create an autonomous Bangsamoro entity that could bring peace to Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the law’s ratification would heal “historical injustices” suffered by the Muslims.and prosperity.

Meanwhile, the Comelec said 60 polling precincts around the country will be opened Jan. 19, Saturday, for mock elections.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the mock elections will help the agency assess and fix any potential problems that might arise in the midterm elections in May.

Each precinct will hold 100 registered voters in all 57 precincts in preparation for the May 2019 midterm polls. Voting will begin at 6 a.m. until noon, except in Metro Manila, were voting will be extended until 6 p.m.

The mock elections will also enable the Comelec to see the automated election system in action. With PNA

READ: Duterte hails Misuari, eyes renewed peace negotiation with MILF


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