Thousands of soldiers deployed for Bangsamoro plebiscite — AFP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vowed to ensure a peaceful plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro law in Mindanao next week. 

Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., AFP chief of staff, said roughly 1,300 soldiers would be deployed for the January 21 referendum which will determine the areas to be included in Bangsamoro region.

"So far we have about 1,300 plus soldiers who are deployed for this upcoming plebiscite," Madrigal said in a chance interview Thursday.

"(Order is) to make sure na magkaroon tayo ng malaya at of course peaceful and at the same time safe conduct of the election," he added.

[Translation: We have to make sure that we will have a free and of course peaceful and at the same time safe conduct of the election.]

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech in July 2018, announced he had signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

The law would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous region which will abolish the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Residents of select cities and areas will vote whether or not they would want to be part of the region.

READ: Duterte orders AFP, PNP to aid Comelec in Bangsamoro plebiscite, 2019 polls 

The AFP added that as of the moment, authorities do not foresee any threat to the safe and free conduct of the plebiscite.  

 

Cabinet supports Bangsamoro law

Meanwhile, Cabinet members personally campaigned for the law days before the plebiscite.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is meeting with Sulu Governor Abdusakur A. Tan II to campaign for the law's ratification.

The Sulu provincial government, through Tan, in October asked the high court to review the constitutionality of the measure.

Tan noted the province is "being coerced" to be part of the soon-to-be-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region without consulting the stand of the majority.

Under the measure, Sulu is one of the provinces-- regardless of the plebiscite results-- automatically named part of the proposed region together with Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi. 

"Kasama pa rin sila because the law says the whole ARMM will expel them. Kailangan lang talaga na suportahan so that puso nila nasa BOL," Lorenzana said.

[Translation: They're still included because the law says the whole ARMM will expel them. They just really need to support it so that their hearts are with the BOL.]

CNN Philippines Correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.