People vote for autonomy in southern Philippines amid security threat

Some 640,000 voters are registered to vote in the provinces for their inclusion in an autonomous region meant to allow self-governance for the Bangsamoro people as part of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Some 640,000 voters are registered to vote in the provinces for their inclusion in an autonomous region meant to allow self-governance for the Bangsamoro people as part of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (DPA) - Hundreds of thousands of people in two Muslim-dominated provinces of the southern Philippines went to the poll on Wednesday (Feb 6) for the second part of a referendum on a new autonomous region despite violence the day before.

Two explosions and a grenade blast took place in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotobato on Tuesday, with no injuries or damage reported, but electoral commission spokesman James Jimenez said the violence was not affecting Wednesday's turnout.

Some 640,000 voters are registered to vote in the provinces for their inclusion in an autonomous region meant to allow self-governance for the Bangsamoro people as part of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

"No amount of bombing or terrorist acts will scare, intimidate or threaten the voters from participating in today's plebiscite," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

Panelo said the military and the police were deployed to safeguard the public and the democratic process.

On Jan 21, the first part of the referendum to create the new autonomous region was held in others areas in Mindanao.

The MILF was confident that people in North Cotobato would favour their inclusion in the autonomous region but unsure of its approval in Lanao del Norte, where the provincial governor campaigned for its rejection.