PNP heightens alert for Maguindanao plebiscite

(PNA file photo by Annabel Consuelo J Petinglay)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has initiated heightened  security measures and has coordinated with the military and other law enforcement agencies for the orderly conduct of the Maguindanao plebiscite on September 17.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. Said other needed assets will be on standby for rapid response, as voters in 36 municipalities will vote for or against the division of Maguindanao into two provinces, to be known as Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte.

If eventually divided, Maguindanao del Norte will be Datu Odin Sinsuat town as its provincial capital. while Buluan, the current capital of the province, will be the government center of Maguindanao del Sur.

Azurin said the PNP has committed to heighten security measures involving the setting up of more checkpoints in strategic areas to boost police visibility. “We also have to make sure minimum public health standard is observed as this will happen in the middle of the lingering pandemic,” he added.

He said the PNP role “is vital in providing security coverage in the transport or movement of plebiscite equipment, documents and supplies,” similar to other election-related activities that have been proven effective in past electoral exercises.

“We just have to make sure we are always on top of the situation so we can readily execute contingencies when original plans won’t work. I trust in the capabilities of our police officers whose pursuit is to help ensure clean, honest, and safe plebiscite,” Azurin stressed.

Under Comelec Resolution No. 10797, a gun ban is in effect during the election period from August 16 to September 24.

The plebiscite should have been held in September last year, according to Republic Act No. 11550 signed by former president Duterte on May 27, 2021, but was reset so the poll body could concentrate on preparations for the May 9 national and local elections.

Earlier, Comelec chair George Garcia said he expects an 80% voter turnout for the plebiscite. He urged “all Maguindanaons to go out and vote, since this is for your future; this is not for us, nor for anybody but you and your future.”

Maguindanao has 939,011 registered voters out of its estimated 1.7 million population, as of last May.

Garcia has urged Comelec officials and personnel to be united as they also prepare for the September 3 plebiscite in Calaca City in Batangas, to ratify its component city status, and the December 5 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.