TUBOD, Lanao del Norte -- The police said it remains on top of the situation as it appealed for calm following the explosions that rocked three towns in this province Tuesday.
The third explosion occurred in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte at about 10 p.m. Tuesday evening.
At past 4 p.m. on that day, an explosion also occurred in Barangay Maranding, the business center of Lala town, followed by another blast in Kauswagan town minutes later.
Lala, Kauswagan, and Sultan Naga Dimaporo are not part of the six municipalities participating in Wednesday's Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite on the question of inclusion in the new autonomous region. Only voters in the towns of Tangkal, Tagoloan, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, and Baloi will be participating in the plebiscite – along with voters in several North Cotabato areas.
Senior Supt. Leopoldo Cabanag, provincial director of Lanao del Norte's Provincial Police Office (PPO), said several families from the towns of Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lala, Kolambogan, Baroy, and Kapatagan had evacuated to neighboring areas in Misamis Occidental province.
"Posible na natakot sila dahil sa mga maling impormasyon. Pero kino-convince na sila ng local government units na babalik sa kani-kanilang mga lugar para maka-boto sa plebisito. Wala pa tayong info kung may umuwi sa kanila (It's possible they are afraid because of wrong information. But the local government units are convincing them to return in their respective places so they can vote in the plebiscite. We have no information if they complied)," Cabanag said during a press conference here Tuesday.
Initial reports said two separate explosions occurred near the Kauswagan municipal building and in front of a gas station in Lala town. No damage or injury has been reported as of posting time, and police said the blasts were still being investigated.
The explosions came a day before the scheduled referendum that will determine whether six of the province's municipalities would be integrated under a new Bangsamoro autonomous region.
"We encouraged them (the families) na huwag matakot (not to be afraid). Manindigan sila para sa (they should take a stand for) Lanao del Norte," Cabanag added.
The police official conceded that last week's double bomb attack on a church in Jolo, Sulu that killed more than 20 people has caused fear among residents. Four days later, a grenade explosion on a mosque in Zamboanga City left two dead and four others wounded.
In Kapatagan town, Mayor Barry Baguio said at least four families from the town's Barangay Poblacion fled to Ozamiz City on Monday for fear of violence related to the BOL plebiscite.
"If we can convince them to stay, then we will do that. There is no reason for them to evacuate," Baguio said in a phone interview.
Wednesday's plebiscite will cover six Lanao del Norte towns and 67 North Cotabato villages. (PNA)