The Bangsamoro plebiscite: Things you need to know

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(FILE PHOTO) Filipino Muslims perform 'Tarawih' prayer as they start the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the Pink Mosque in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Philippines.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is envisioned to be a major step towards finally achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to end the decades-long conflict in the region, formally signed Republic Act No. 11054 or the BOL in July 2018.

Once ratified, the landmark legislation will abolish the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to make way for the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region.

Before the law can be fully implemented, voters in some parts of Mindanao will take part in a two-day plebiscite to ratify the law and determine the areas that will make up the new region.

READ: Road to peace in Mindanao: The Bangsamoro Organic Law

Here's a rundown of what you can expect from the Bangsamoro plebiscite:

WHAT: Plebiscite for inclusion in the Bangsamoro region

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced in December  the  holding of the plebiscite in January and February to determine the areas to be covered by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The poll body split the referendum into two dates to allow for the participation of voters in areas which petitioned for voluntary inclusion in the region.

"The reason we split the plebiscite is because we want to give enough time to deal with the issues being raised, in the different petitions. We don't want to summarily dismiss everything," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

WHEN: January 21 and February 6

The plebiscites will be done on Monday, January 21, 2019, and Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Polling precincts will open at 7 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. for both days.

WHERE: ARMM, other parts of Mindanao

If the BOL is ratified, it will automatically include the entire ARMM  -- Sulu, Basilan except for Isabela City, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi.

Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan will also vote if they want to be part of BARMM.

Here's the list of areas which will join the two-day plebiscite:

January 21, 2019 (Monday)

  • ARMM
  • Cotabato City
  • Isabela City, Basilan

February 6, 2019 (Wednesday)

  • Lanao del Norte
  • Tagoloan
  • Balo-i
  • Pantar
  • Munai
  • Tangcal
  • Nunungan
  • North Cotabato (Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan, Pikit, Tulunan)

WHO

Comelec expects about three million Mindanaoans to participate in the plebiscite.

The Armed Forces and the National Police say some 20,000 troops would be deployed to provide security. 

How will the January 21 plebiscite run?

Voters will be asked to write either "YES" or "NO" on the ballot asking if they want to be part of BARMM. Except for Basilan, ARMM will vote as one geographical area.

Basilan voters will be asked two questions: (1) do they agree to ratify the BOL; and (2) Do they approve of Isabela City's inclusion in BARMM. 

Voters in Isabela City, on the other hand,  will be asked if they want to be part of BARMM. 

According to Article 15 Section 3 of the BOL, Isabela will join BARMM if the majority of voters in the city choose to be included AND majority of Basilan voters agree. 

Voters in Cotabato City, which is not part of ARMM but hosts its regional office and line agencies, will also be asked if they want to be part of BARMM. Cotabato Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi is against joining BARMM.  

If the "Yes" vote prevails in the January 21 plebiscite, there will be another one on February 6.

How will the February 6 plebiscite run?

Lanao del Norte voters will be asked if they agree to include the towns  of Tagoloan, Balo-i, Pantar, Munai, Tangcal, and Nunungan in BARMM. 

Those in the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Tulunan, North Cotabato will decide if they will allow 67 of their barangays (villages) to separate and be part of BARMM. 

Voters of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will also have to vote if they are willing to let go of these areas.

READ: The Bangsamoro Organic Law: Everything you need to know

Duterte will then appoint members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will include incumbent officials of the regional government. 

The BTA will have legislative and executive powers during the transition period.  It will be considered the Bangsamoro government during the transition and will have exclusive powers over budgeting, justice, agriculture, human rights, and tourism, among others.