Voters in Marawi say yes to two new barangays

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — The southern city of Marawi now has two new barangays after voters said yes to their creation in the plebiscite held on Saturday.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said 948 voters were in favor of forming Brgy. Boganga II from the existing Brgy. Boganga, which has a population of 6,320 and 992 registered voters.

A total of 473 voters also agreed to forming Brgy. Datu Dadiligan from the existing Brgy. Sagonsongan, which has a population of 7,137 and 480 registered voters.

Voter turnout was 95.72% in Bonganga and 99.16% in Sagonsongan, according to the poll body.

"Democracy is alive here in Marawi City," Comelec chairman George Garcia told the media.

The creation of the two barangays is linked to the aftermath of the 2017 Marawi siege, the Comelec said.

In May 2017, Islamic State-linked gunmen seized the city and waged war against Philippine military forces until October 2017. Many residents were displaced during that time, which led to an increase in population of barangays Boganga and Sagonsongan.

Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, who was in charge of the plebiscite, said the high voter turnout was not surprising based on her experience in the Bangsamoro region.

"Heto dito sa plebesito it's their clamor naman," Ferolino said. "So lalo na walang opposition, parang nagkakaisa sila to cast their vote and to finally have what they want na meron ng additional barangays that will cater, address their needs naman."

[Translation: They clamored for this plebiscite. So there's no opposition, and they became united to cast their vote and to finally have what they want, which is additional barangays that will cater to and address their needs.]

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra earlier said the creation of the two new barangays would help facilitate the delivery of welfare and social services to those displaced by the siege.

"If in case sa isang barangay, may ayuda na dumadating, hindi po nagkakasya 'yung ayuda. Mas mabuti na 'yung ma-separate 'yung iba para sa iba rin may ayuda rin na darating," Asmin Barao Saumay, a resident of Brgy. Sagonsongan, told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: If aid is coming to a barangay, it's not enough. It's better that the barangays would be separated so that everyone would receive aid.]

The Comelec added that the plebiscite was the first exclusively local electoral exercise in Marawi City after it was liberated in October 2017, following the 2019 and 2022 national and local elections and the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE).

There were no reports of peace and order disturbances, or incidents involving vote counting during the exercise.

Poll watchdog National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections observed the same but noted the lack of express lanes for senior citizens, persons with disabilities and pregnant women, and emergency accessible polling places.

Garcia said the new villages should now have internal revenue allotment, which is the annual share of local governments out of the proceeds from national internal revenue taxes.

"At the same time, kailangan dito natin isasama na rin 'yan sa BSKE…Mas mahahati na kung saka-sakali 'yung mga botante. At hindi na ganun kadami ang botante sa bawat presinto," Garcia added.

[Translation: At the same time, these barangays should also be included in the BSKE…Voters will be divided and there would be fewer voters in the precincts.]

CNN Philippines correspondent Paige Javier contributed to this report.