MANILA, Sept 19 (Mabuhay) — Nearly all the 80.84 percent of Maguindanao’s registered voters agreed to ratify a law seeking to divide the province into two during a plebiscite held on Saturday.

In a statement on Sunday, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said the figure was based on official plebiscite municipal canvass of votes.

Laudiangco said the Maguindanao split plebiscite’s 80.84 percent voter turnout was second to the record set in 1998 referendum that created Compostela Valley from Davao Del Norte at 89.73 percent.

“As it stands, this Maguindanao plebiscite will have the second highest voter turnout for province-wide plebiscites,” he said.

He, however, said in terms of total number of registered voters and total number of voters who actually voted at 712,857 out of 881,790, “this is the most participated-in plebiscite, province/city/municipality wide.”

He said 707,651 or 99.27 percent voted ‘yes’ while only 5,206 or 0.73 percent registered ‘no’ votes against dividing the province into Maguindanao Del Norte and Maguindanao Del Sur.

The breakdown per proposed province is as follow: Maguindanao Del Norte (12 municipalities) 330,345 total number of voters who actually voted 328,141 YES (99.33 percent) and 2,204 NO (0.67 percent) and Maguindanao Del Sur (24 municipalities) 382,512 total number of voters who actually voted 379,510 YES (99.22 percent) and 3,002 NO (0.78 percent).

For his part, Comelec chairman George Garcia attributed the high voter turnout to the willingness of the electorate to participate and believing in the process.

“People are not afraid to cast their votes. They trust the process so much,” he said.

Asked when they expect the provincial board of canvassers to announce the results, Laudiangco said: “We will finish this morning.”

Peaceful and orderly

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has declared peaceful and orderly the culmination of the plebiscite that sought to ratify measures to divide the province’s 36 municipalities under two separate provincial jurisdictions.

In a statement on Saturday, Azurin said a total of 2,377 PNP personnel were deployed for election duties during the plebiscite, with 1,116 assigned in 461 polling centers.

A sizable number of police personnel was also detailed to provide security to convoys transporting election materials, security at the provincial capitol, municipal hubs, provincial treasurer’s office, and 20 mobile checkpoints around the province.

Some 600 other police personnel were deployed for civil disturbance management, quick response team, reactionary standby support force, investigation covert security, and implementation of minimum public health standards.

Azurin said election paraphernalia was received as scheduled, polling precincts opened on time, and there were no plebiscite-related incidents reported.

He said security processes and protocols were organized, and anti-Covid protocols and efforts are still enforced and observed.

“I feel happy for the people of Maguindanao for this historic moment that they are afforded this opportunity to decide for themselves the future of their province,” Azurin said.

In May 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11550, or the Charter of the Provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.

Under the law, Maguindanao del Norte will be made up of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay.

Maguindanao del Sur will be composed of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi.

The capital towns and seats of the government of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur shall be the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Buluan, respectively. (MNS)