TUBOD, Lanao del Norte- Tensions rose in a village here early Tuesday, a day before the second round of a plebiscite for a new autonomous region.
Nearly a hundred Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members from Lanao del Sur gathered in Barangay Bulod, raising anxiety among locals.
Although not carrying any firearms, the MILF members arrived in groups aboard several private vehicles.
"Natatakot sila (other locals) baka daw may mangyari sa amin,” resident Jean Tibon told ABS-CBN News.
(They are scared that something bad might happen to us.)
Soldiers arrived later to guard the area.
“Nagpapasalamat kami at may mga sundalo na dumarating,” said village councilor Joel Guaca.
(We are thankful to the soldiers that arrived.)
MILF Deputy for 119th Base Command Abu Jamel Cadayon said they came to Tubod to merely observe the conduct of the plebiscite on Wednesday.
“Gusto namin tingnan ang maraming tao kung gusto nila ang BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law). Hindi kami nagpunta rito para manggulo, wala sa isipan namin yan,” Cadayon said.
(We want to see whether many people like the BOL. We did not come here to sow chaos, that's not in our mind.)
“Dapat pabotohin lahat, bumoto ng "yes." Ang “no” huwag matakot kung talagang “no” kayo hindi namin kayo pipilitin, tayo ay nasa demokrasya,” Cadayon added.
(Everyone should vote, vote "yes." Those who want to vote "no" should not be forced to do otherwise. This is a democracy.)
Police assured residents of Lanao del Norte of security, saying authorities have conducted inspections.
“Yung presence ng MILF, as long as walang ginawang masama okay lang po," Tubod Police Chief Insp. Rodolfo Dongiapon said.
Wednesday's plebiscite will determine if more areas will be added to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which now includes Cotabato City.
The vote will cover 6 towns in Lanao del Norte and 67 villages in North Cotabato.