The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) has mobilized local peace monitors in various parts of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces to help ensure peace and orderly Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on Monday.
Malaysian Col. Shansirudin Mohd Shariff, IMT representative, said they visited several critical areas within the two provinces last week to check their security situation and various election-related activities.
He said their group visited at least four municipalities in South Cotabato and 12 in Sultan Kudarat to coordinate the area’s security arrangements with the established Local Monitoring Teams (LMTs).
Shansirudin, who made a brief stop at the office of South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. last Thursday, initially played down the possible escalation of election-related conflict in the province due to the relatively peaceful situation in the area.
The group lauded the governor’s recent efforts of bringing the local government closer to people through outreach programs in Barangay Upper Sepaka in Surallah town, which was one of the villages earlier affected by a conflict between residents and a group of bandits.
Pingoy sought for the deployment of a platoon from the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion to secure the conduct of the elections in the area.
“We don’t have a major mission in South Cotabato since the province has not recorded any election-related incident as of this time,” the IMT team leader said.
Shansirudin said their efforts are presently focused in problematic areas like the coastal town of Lebak in Sultan Kudarat, which was affected heavily by a conflict among local rebel factions and their supporting clans or families.
Thousands of residents evacuated from the area earlier this year due to the escalation of violence between local commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front who were fighting over a long-drawn land dispute.
The IMT was established several years ago to help monitor implementation of the ceasefire agreement and other pacts related to the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.