AFP denies conspiracy claims with MILF to win 'yes' in Bangsamoro vote

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) —  The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday denied accusations that it conspired with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in ensuring the victory and creation of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

In a statement Monday, AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgardo Arevalo said it was "grossly unfair" to tag authorities for such activity.

"This is an unfortunate occasion where the AFP, despite diligently performing its mandate 24/7, is being accused of a malpractice. This is grossly unfair to the men and women of the AFP who dutifully performed their election duties," he said.

Cotabato City Mayor Guiani-Sayadi on Sunday told The Manila Times that there has been a conspiracy among plebiscite officials, security forces, as well as the members of the rebel group.

Guiani-Sayadi has openly opposed her city's inclusion in the soon-to-be established Bangsamoro region, which will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Cotabato City, although not an official part of ARMM, hosts its regional offices and line agencies.

Majority of Cotabato City residents, however, said "yes" to inclusion in the new region.

"The AFP is and will remain professional, non-partisan, and true to its mandate of protecting the people in the exercise of their political rights and in electing their leaders who will manage the affairs of the state," AFP added in its statement.

The Commission on Elections on January 25 declared the ratification of the Republic Act 11054 or the  Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is seen to end conflict between the government and rebel groups in Mindanao. A total of 1,540,017 residents who took part in the first plebiscite voted in favor of the BOL.

Also joining the new Bangsamoro region are 63 North Cotabato barangays (villages), according to its plebiscite board of canvassers. Lanao del Norte, however, rejected the inclusion of its six towns in the new region.