WATCH: Police step in after teachers don't show up in Bangsamoro plebiscite

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – It's the day the Bangsamoro people will decide the future of their region, but the gates to the ballots where they are to cast their votes remained closed.  

Teachers who were to serve as election inspectors at the Don E Sero elementary school for the Bangsamoro plebiscite are nowhere to be found. Alleged intimidation and threats stopped them from going to several voting centers on Monday, January 21. 

Three hours after voting was scheduled to take place, police arrive at about 10 am to act as last-minute election facilitators. 

Police Inspector Dixon Mendel says voters were angry by then. 

Inexplain ko naman na itong BOL is para sa kanila. Ang main purpose nito is peace so kung tayo mag-start ng gulo, nag-uumpisa pa lang, babagsak tayo uli,” Mendel told Rappler in an interview. (I explained the BOL was for them. Its main purpose is for peace, if we cause trouble while it is only starting, we will fall again.)

Mainit sa kabila at mainit din sa kabila kasi nandito kayo…[pero] ang pinag-awayan dito dalawang letra at tatlong letra lang. So kung masolusyunan iyan, mag-intindihan naman kayo, siguro mag-improve ang Mindanao,” he added. (One side is angry, and so is the other…. but what is being fought over here is two letters [no] and three letters [yes]. If we can solve that and understand one another, maybe Mindanao can improve.)

It is the mindset of keeping the peace, Mendel said, that makes the job easier than expected. After all, he adds, a policeman should be ready for anything. 

Sofia Tomacruz files this report. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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