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An Army soldier and a police officer with a bomb-sniffing dog check on residents coming to vote at the Kauswagan Central Elementary School in Lanao del Norte on Wednesday. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

Lanao Norte holds on to 6 towns: ‘No’

By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent . 

A military and armored vehicles moving on the road in Lanao del Norte. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

TUBOD, Lanao del Norte—The six municipalities of Nunungan, Baloi, Pantar, Munai, Tagoloan and Tangkal failed to muster enough votes for their inclusion to the new Bangsamoro region.

Commission on Elections-Lanao del Norte supervisor Joseph Hamilton Cuevas said the “yes” votes were not enough. The votes to reject the inclusion of the six towns were overwhelming.

“The ‘no’ votes have it. The people have spoken,” Cuevas told reporters.

Figures from the Comelec said 75,664 voted in favor of inclusion while 157, 417 voted to reject it.

Cuevas said all six towns, however, voted for their inclusion to the new Bangsamoro region.

He said three other towns—Poona Piagapo, Pantao Ragat and Salvador, voted for the inclusion of the six towns.

Cuevas said Pantao Ragat town even voted straight “yes.”

He said these are not enough to offset the votes rejecting the inclusion.

Mayor Casan Maquiling of Munai town said nearly all his constituents voted in favor of inclusion, and his municipality was the first to submit the results to the board of canvassers in Tubod, Lanao Norte.

Maquiling said 10,765 voted for inclusion while the only four voted against it.

Despite the explosions on the day before the plebiscite, thousands of Lanao del Norte residents went out to vote for and against the inclusion of six towns in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Cuevas said the Comelec had expected a 90-percent turnout of voters on Wednesday. He said the explosions on Tuesday had no effect on the turnout of voters.

Cuevas said the situation was normal that not one public school teacher was absent because of security concerns unlike in the past elections.

Three explosions rocked the towns of Lala, Kauswagan and Sultan Naga Dimaporo on the day before plebiscite.

In North Cotabato, there was a low voter turnout during Wednesday’s plebiscite on the inclusion of its 67 barangays in seven towns in the Barmm.

Lawyer Michael Abas, Comelec-12 director, told reporters that “People were not interested in this electoral exercise despite the campaign urging them to participate in the process.”

Abas said he expected the canvassing of election returns from the 67 barangays to be completed today or two days after the plebiscite even if the voter turnout in the province was lower than the Jan. 21 plebiscite’s turnout of more than 85 percent.

Senior Supt. Oliver Enmodias, police regional  deputy director for operations, said the plebiscite in North Cotabato was generally peaceful.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters from the Armed Forces flew over towns where the plebiscite was held as part of the measures to secure the elections. (with reports from Nora Soriño of GSD-Iligan Bureau, and Bong Sarmiento of Mindanews)

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