COTABATO CITY — The city chief executive here has appealed for calm and sobriety after a fire of still unknown origin gutted down on Saturday night the city’s Commission on Elections (Comelec) office, destroying in the process voluminous election records.

“I appeal to all of you to just stay calm and let our authorities do their job. Let us stop all these rumors and speculations from spreading as these would not help but instead will only create unnecessary chaos and disagreements among us,” Mayor Cynthia Frances Sayadi said in a statement Sunday.

At around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, a fire broke out at the city election office situated along Sta. Teresa St., Barangay Rosary Heights 13, burning a huge section of the building that included its records section.

Chief Insp. Efren Salazar Jr., Police Station 2 commander, said they responded to secure the area as firefighters from the city fire department, Bureau of Fire Protection-Region 12 (Soccsksargen), and Filipino-Chinese fire volunteers suppressed the fire around an hour later.

“No casualties or injuries were reported during the fire. Fire probers are still investigating the case,” Salazar told reporters here.

The mayor said she immediately reported the fire incident to the Comelec central office in Manila, urging the agency to take appropriate steps on informing residents about the status of their election records.

“The people of Cotabato City were left with so many questions that I urged them (Comelec Manila) to make necessary actions to assure everyone of a fair election/plebiscite,” she said.

The local Comelec office is currently conducting its early voters’ registration procedure in preparation for the anticipated Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao plebiscite later this year and also for the 2019 mid-term polls.

Last month, lawyer Michael Ignes, city election officer, assured the mayor of “safety nets” against multiple registrants in the voters’ master list.

Sayadi said one of the safety nets assured by Ignes was the biometric fingerprint registration system per voter, to which the Comelec Manila office has record of to determine multiple registrants.

According to Comelec Resolution No. 10392, the filing of applications for registration and other voter-related registration for the May 13, 2019 polls would be from July 2 to September 29, 2018.

The Comelec said the resumption of continuing registration of voters shall be conducted nationwide, excluding Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, which government forces liberated from a five-month siege carried out by local terror groups last year.

Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts are currently ongoing in Marawi City. (PNA)

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