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Gov’t leaders vow peaceful plebiscite, mid-term polls

January 04, 2019 - Friday 6:01 PM by MindaNews

PEACE MEN. (From left) Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and 6th ID commander Major General Cirilito Sobejana arrive in Cotabato City days after the bombing that killed two persons. OPAPP Photo

CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUINDANAO —  Top government, military, and police officials met with local leaders here on Thursday to defuse tension following the recent bombing incident in Cotabato City and to assure the city of a peaceful conduct of the upcoming Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite and midterm polls.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they came here to prevent speculation and “finger-pointing” on the bombing, which claimed two lives and injured scores of others.

“We are here to defuse the tensions and we don’t want to escalate the conflict,” he said.

Lorenzana, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., and  Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Arnel dela Vega met with Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, Maguindanao First District and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, and Bangsamoro Islamic Forces Chief of Staff Sammy Gambar Al-Mansoor.

Lorenzana said a presentation made during the security briefing led by 6th Infantry Division commander Major General Cirilito Sobejana suggests the bombing had the signature the local Daulah Islamiyah terrorist group.

“Until we get to the bottom of this, we consider this incident a terror attack,” he said.

Police authorities have aready formed a special investigation task group (SITG) to speed up the investigation of the pre-New Year bombing.

Chief Superintendent Eliseo Tam Rasco, police director for Region 12 (Soccsksargen), said SITG-South Seas, in coordination with the military and other security agencies, is looking at all possible angles and motives behind the December 31 bombing in front of South Seas Mall.

A second improvised bomb was discovered at the baggage counter of South Seas Mall and was deactivated by Army and police bomb experts.

It contained black powder, cut nails, metal ball bearing, and chemical that produced a very foul odor.

In the aftermath of the attack, Lorenzana also gave assurance that the people will have “a free and peaceful elections and plebiscites” for the BOL which will be held on January 21 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cotabato City, and Isabela City for the ratification of the BOL.

For Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, including the barangays that filed their petitions to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) granted by the COMELEC, the plebiscite will be on February 6, 2019.

“Rest assured that your military and police are doing their best to ensure that you can vote freely according to your choice,” Lorenzana said.

For his part, Galvez asked the leaders to stay calm following the attack.

“We can’t win peace by force, but by persuasive diplomacy and understanding,” he said.

Galvez said the local leaders and the security forces are committed to making sure the upcoming plebiscite and elections “will be peaceful and it will reflect the honest will of the people.”

He noted that the presence of the Defense Chief here was critical since Lorenzana knows the political landscape and security situation of the area. Lorenzana is from the town of Parang in Maguindanao and studied at the Notre Dame University.