Cotabato City Mayor wants Comelec Chair to inhibit from Bangsamoro plebiscite

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi urged Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sheriff Abas to inhibit from the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite as a "matter of delicadeza."

She pointed out that Abas is the nephew of Mohagher Iqbal, the Chief Peace Negotiator of rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a group that has long pushed for an autonomous region.

"I am not questioning the institution itself. But you seem in this particular case, Chairman Abas should inhibit himself, being identified with the MILF," she told CNN Philippines on Thursday.

Guiani-Sayadi is not considering filing a complaint against the poll chairman to force him to inhibit.

The local official's comments come after she questioned the identification cards being issued by a pro-BOL group that was granted accreditation by Comelec to also serve as poll watchers. The mayor claimed some residents have come forward to reveal they were given pro-BOL IDs even without applying for them. She suspects the pro-BOL group had access to Comelec voters' records since the pictures and data on the IDs were similar from those provided on the voter registration forms.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach Abas and other Comelec officials for a comment.

Guiani-Sayadi has openly expressed her opposition to include Cotabato City to a new Bangsamoro territory.

"Yung decision ko specifically to support the no for inclusion of Cotabato City, hindi ko sariling desisyon ito. I consulted practically all the stakeholders of Cotabato City," she said.

[Translation: My decision to specifically support the no for Cotabato City's inclusion, I did not come up with it by myself. consulted practically all the stakeholders of Cotabato City.]

She added her decision to go "all out" for a no vote was representative of the people's will. She urged her constituents to exercise their right to vote on January 21.

Voters in Cotabato City, Isabela City in Basilan, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will decide the fate of BARMM (Bangsamoro ARMM) on January 21. A second plebiscite for Lanao del Norte excluding Iligan City, North Cotabato, and the 28 areas which petitioned for inclusion into BARMM would be held on February 6.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.