Bangsamoro plebiscite: Cotabato City Mayor to protest inclusion in new autonomous region

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi on Wednesday said she will object the city's inclusion in the new autonomous region as a result of the historic Bangsamoro plebiscite.

A total of 36,682 or 59 percent of residents voted "yes," while 24,994 voted "no" for the city to become part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Guiani-Sayadi said the election result does not reflect the desire of the people of Cotabato City because it has been marred by violence and irregularities.

"May violence, sobrang massive disenfranchisement ng voters, we even caught teachers writing 'yes' doon sa balota ng mga botante. Maraming violation kaming ma-cite. Pero ang pinaka grabe po, libo-libong outsiders ang nasa polling precincts," she told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: There was violence. There was massive disenfranchisement of voters. Some teachers were even caught writing 'yes' on the ballots against the will of the voters. We can cite a lot of violations, but the worst is the thousands of outsiders who were in the polling precincts.]

She added the breakdown of votes is "statistically impossible" considering the city has voted twice against its inclusion in the Muslim autonomous region.

The mayor is set to file the protest before the Commission on Elections. She said she will take the proper course despite the close ties of poll body chairman Sheriff Abas to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"Whatever is the result, importanteng malaman ng tao, ng buong bansa na hindi iyan reflective ng tunay na nangyari dito," she said.

[Translation: The world needs to find out that the result is not reflective of the true desire of Cotabato. We will pursue the protest regardless of the result.]

Cotabato City-- along with Isabela City in Basilan and other areas in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)-- took part in the first Bangsamoro referendum on Monday.

Related: Cotabato City Mayor wants Comelec Chair to inhibit from Bangsamoro plebiscite

The plebiscite would determine the areas to be covered by the BARMM, once the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is officially ratified.

The Comelec en banc, acting as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers, has yet to commence the official counting of Bangsamoro votes.

Comelec earlier said it has rescheduled the canvassing, as it has yet to receive a single certificate of canvass from the plebiscite areas.

Working together

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Wednesday said all stakeholders in the region should "work together" in order to attain the "common aspiration" of the Bangsamoro people.

"Those who are against the BOL must yield to the rule of the majority," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

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"All the major players, pro and con, must now come together and work together for the success of the common aspiration of the Bangsamoro people, which is to have a progressive and peaceful Mindanao."

The Palace added claims of fraud and irregularities are not new during election period.

"If they do not affect the credibility of the elections and alter the result thereof, while those responsible for the undemocratic methods will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, the result of the plebiscite must be upheld despite discordant voices," the statement read.