Election officers check the contents of a ballot box during the canvassing of votes at the provincial capitol in Tubod, Lanao del Norte on Thursday, Feb. 7. Just the day before, a province-wide plebiscite was held to determine if the voters want the six towns to be included in the new Bangsamoro regional government that will be created following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. (Jigger J. Jerusalem/davaotoday.com)

TUBOD, LANAO DEL NORTE – This province has remained peaceful as the canvassing for the plebiscite that determined whether the six contested towns will become part of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) ended on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 7.

Lawyer Joseph Hamilton Cuevas, the provincial election officer, told reporters that last Wednesday’s plebiscite was the “most successful and peaceful electoral exercise ever undertaken in (Lanao del Norte).”

His assessment came in the wake of reports of threats and harassments conducted by a group of individuals in some parts of the province, as well as the unverified video circulating on social media of individuals throwing stones at another group while uniformed men fired several shots in the air during the day of the plebiscite.

Cuevas has also confirmed that in the whole province the “no” votes have prevailed over the “yes” votes, which would mean Lanao del Norte will retain the six towns as part of its jurisdiction, namely, Balo-i, Pantar, Munai, Tangcal, Nunungan, and Tagoloan.

Although most voters of the six municipalities voted “yes,” they were overwhelmed by the province-wide total votes of “no” under the “double majority” rule.

In Balo-i, the “yes” won with 8,553 votes, while “no” was 3,038. But in the rest of Lanao del Norte, the “yes” only garnered 73,164 votes while “no” has a total of 154,553 votes.

Munai had 10,765 “yes” votes, and “no” with 4 votes, against the whole province with 71,148 “yes” votes and 158,025 “no” votes.

Pantar, 7,840 “yes” votes, 256 “no” votes, against the whole province with 73,992 “no,” and 157,705 “yes.”

Tagoloan, 2,760 “yes” and 1,373 “no,” against the whole province which had 78,849 “yes,” and 156,605 “no.”

Tangcal, 6,276 “yes” and zero “no,” against the whole province with 75,664 “yes,” and 157,417 “no.”

Nunungan, 1,802 “yes” and 1,004 “no,” against the whole province’s 79,935 “yes” and 156,630 “no.”

In a statement posted on social media on Thursday, February 7, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said the result of the plebiscite in both Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato was a “victory” as it has proven that “by working hand in hand, we can surmount all challenges in our collective quest to achieve enduring peace in Mindanao.”

With the culmination of the plebiscite, Galvez has urged the people of Mindanao “to pool our energies together to ensure the smooth and seamless transition from the current regional government to the future [BARMM], as we simultaneously address the root causes of armed conflict and other pressing issues confronting the region.” (davaotoday.com)

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