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COTABATO CITY – All 14 Army battalions deployed in Maguindanao and the entire local police force will be mobilized to ensure safe and fair elections on May 13, 2013 in the province, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reported.

Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, director of Comelec for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said during a recent radio interview that there is also a possibility of bringing in additional cops from outside of ARMM to help secure certain areas in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

“Even if these provinces have been labeled as `areas of concern,’ we are optimistic there will be peaceful and orderly elections there with the cooperation of candidates and the Comelec’s enforcement of election laws,” Sumalipao said.

Sumalipao said he is confident that candidates for regional, provincial and municipal positions in the two mainland provinces who forged election peace covenants will adhere faithfully to their commitments not to resort to cheating and violence.

“So far we don’t have reports of any election-related incident since the campaign period started,” Sumalipao said.

ARMM covers the provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in Central Mindanao; the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

“We don’t see any problem securing Maguindanao because there are 14 battalions of soldiers in the province. We’re more concerned with the situation in Lanao del Sur because there are very few Army units there. We need to augment the police force there,” Sumalipao said.

All the five ARMM incumbent provincial governors led by caretaker-Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman belong to the ruling Liberal Party (LP), together with most of the 117 municipal mayors in the region.

Governors Sakur Tan of Sulu and Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi have completed three-terms and fielded their sons to take their posts through May 13 polls, while Governors Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao and Jum Akbar of Basilan are seeking reelection.

Mangudadatu and Adiong are, respectively, in one-on-one gubernatorial contests against Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura and former Marawi City Mayor Omar “Solitario” Ali, both of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Hataman is seeking fresh electoral mandate in the May 13 polls against five contenders, including former ARMM Governor and Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari, former Agrarian Reform Yusoph Mama and former Sultan Kudarat Rep. and Governor Pax Mangudadatu.