ONLY BASILAN, MARAWI OKAY ARMM INCLUSION
Manila, Aug. 23, 2001 - The campaign to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has apparently been defeated, because only Basilan and Marawi City agreed to be included in the autonomous area.
The final canvassing of returns showed that Basilan voted 73,866 “Yes” against 22,121 “No” in the August 14 plebiscite. The “Yes” votes in Marawi City numbered 26,362 against 2,426 “No” votes.
Marawi and Basilan will therefore join the four current members of the ARMM: Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur and Tawi-Tawi.
The rest of the 14 cities and 15 provinces in Mindanao rejected the proposal to be included in the autonomous region.
The four ARMM members were asked a different question: Would they agree to the proposed expansion of their region? They all voted “Yes.”
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) vowed to respect the results of the plebiscite.
“This is the mandate of the law. We have to respect it. We had wanted a postponement to give us more time to prove to the people that there is wisdom in joining the autonomy, but then the law said the plebiscite has to be conducted and so be it,” said Farouk Hussin, chairman of the MNLF executive committee, in an interview with Malacañang reporters.
Alfredo Benipayo, chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said this year’s exercise actually yielded the highest voter turnout. During the first two plebiscites on the same proposalfirst in 1976 and the second in 1989only 20 percent turned out to vote.
“The voter turnout of more than 50 percent [disproves] allegations that the Comelec did not wage a proper information campaign,” Benipayo said. He said the Comelec’s job was merely to inform people about the plebiscite.
Isabela City voted against inclusion in the autonomous region and will stand independent of Basilan province.
Commissioner Resurreccion Borra said that since the four ARMM provinces agreed to the region’s expansion, the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development will now have to be abolished.
Borra said this was the condition set by Republic Act 9054, which created the peace council. Hussin said the MNLF will abide by the results of the plebiscite, but hopes that the MNLF could prepare better for another plebiscite in the future.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2001 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
All rights reserved
PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE