File photo shows a policeman guarding ballot boxes during the plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro law in Buluan, Maguindanao on January 21, 2019. BONG SARMIENTO

PRO-BAR Director Nobleza classifies 32 towns, SGA in BARMM as ‘areas of grave concern’ for BSKE 2023

Cotabato City— Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, PRO-BAR Director, announced Friday, September 8 the towns in the Bangsamoro Region under the red code category during the presentation here of two suspects involved in the indiscriminate firing of guns in Malabang, Lanao del Sur. 
There are thirty-two municipalities and the 63 villages of the Special Geographic Area (SGA) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that have been classified as “areas of grave concern” (red code) for the October 30, 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), a Mindanews report said on September 11.

There are at least 119 municipalities comprising the BARMM, which covers the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan. The 63 villages from six towns in North Cotabato opted to join the Bangsamoro region during the plebiscite in 2019.

“This is so far the only election-related incident we recorded since the start of the filing of COCs (Certificates of Candidacy). Because of our pressure, they came out and surrendered,” Mindanews quoted Nobleza saying.

Nobleza stressed that appropriate security measures will be implemented in Malabang, which is one of the eight towns in Lanao del Sur placed under areas of grave concern or on red code. The others are Marawi City, Tubaran, Maguing, Binidayan, Butig, Madalum and Marogong.

Maguindanao del Sur has the highest number of localities under red code at 13, the Mindanews report said.

These are the municipalities of Rajah Buayan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Buluan, Mangudadatu and Pandag.

While Shariff Saydona Mustapha town was included, the town’s election officer, Casana Mangoramas, said “all candidates are unopposed” – from the 16 bets for barangay chairs, 113 candidates for barangay councils, 16 bets for SK chairpersons and 102 for youth kagawads.

Maguindanao del Sur election supervisor Atty. Allan Kadon said the towns with unopposed bets for barangay chairman include Datu Anggal Midtimbang with seven barangays, Datu Hoffer with 11, Datu Unsay with eight, Guindulungan with 11 and Sharif Aguak with 13.

In Maguindanao del Norte, the towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Sultan Kudarat have been placed under the red code category.
In Basilan, the areas of grave concern are Lamitan City, Hadji Mohammad Adjul, Sumisip, Tabuan Lasa, Tipo-Tipo, Tubaran and Ungkaya Pukan.

In Sulu, the towns of Parang and Indanan were included in the red alert category.
Tawi-Tawi had none.

Cotabato City, which is now part of the BARMM, is in orange code category or an “area of immediate concern.” Overall, there are 29 municipalities placed under areas of immediate concern.

He noted that 81.5 percent of the 119 municipalities in BARMM  have been placed under different areas of concern.
Nobleza said that based on their assessment, the political landscape in the region has suffered from politically-motivated violent incidents.

Nobleza recommended that localities placed under areas of grave concern or red code be placed under the control of the Commission of Elections.