PEACEFUL PLEBISCITE. Comelec chair George Garcia. Garcia said Friday (Aug. 19, 2022) he looks forward to an 80 percent turnout of voters on Sept. 17, 2022 for the ratification of the law that would divide Maguindanao province into Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur. (Photo grab from Bandera FM-TV Cotabato)

COTABATO CITY – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia is expecting an 80 percent turnout of voters for the September 17 plebiscite on the division of Maguindanao province.

“I came over to ensure we will have orderly political exercises, even if it is just a plebiscite,” he said in an interview on Friday.

Garcia attended the coordinating conference on the Maguindanao plebiscite held at the AlNor convention center here on Thursday afternoon.

“When I say orderly, it does not mean only an absence of conflict but to ensure that all Maguindanao voters can go out and vote freely and secured,” Garcia said.

“I am expecting an 80 percent turnout (of voters) on September 17. So to all Maguindanaons go out and vote, this is for your future. This is not for us, this is not for anybody but you and your future.”

As of the May 2022 national and local elections, Maguindanao has 939,011 registered voters.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said the election must be peaceful and orderly.

“We will ensure that no person shall bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons during the election period that may pose harm or threat to the public,” Galido said.

Provincial officials have been campaigning for a "yes" vote that would ratify Republic Act 11550, the law that seeks to split the province in two.

Notably, however, not one personality or group appears to be campaigning against ratification.

Only voters in Maguindanao’s 36 towns will participate in the referendum.

Cotabato City residents are excluded as it is an independent, not component, city located inside Maguindanao’s first district.

Once ratified, the first district will become Maguindanao del Norte with Datu Odin Sinsuat town as the capital and the second district will become Maguindanao del Sur with Buluan still its capital.

Sarangani town plebiscite set Aug. 20

Meanwhile, close to 5,000 voters in the town of Alabel in Sarangani province will be voting to create a new barangay (village) in their area on Saturday.

In a statement Friday, the poll body said 4,960 registered voters are expected to participate in the plebiscite that will ratify the creation of Barangay New Canaan into a regular and distinct village in the municipality.

The area has 11 established precincts, 29 clustered precincts, and five voting centers.

The town has allotted a total budget of PHP3.3 million for the activity. (with report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)