June 20, 2024 – A recent survey by IAG Research finds that the majority of likely voters in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) lack awareness of the new voting system and key features of the upcoming 2025 regional parliamentary elections. With the elections only a year away, the findings highlight significant gaps in voter education.


The survey conducted from April 29 to May 14, 2024 among 3,072 respondents shows that 58.4% of likely voters have no knowledge at all of the voting system, while 24% have minimal knowledge. This is concerning as these will be the first-ever regional parliamentary elections in BARMM.


The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), signed in July 2018, established the BARMM following a successful 2019 plebiscite, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). This law, a product of peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), created a parliamentary system for the region. The 80-seat Bangsamoro Parliament reflects this structure: 40 seats for party representatives (elected proportionally), 32 for district representatives (elected directly per district), and 8 reserved seats (2 each for non-Moro indigenous and settler communities, and 1 each for traditional leaders, youth, women, and the Ulama).


When asked about their understanding of specific election features, the majority of respondents admitted to limited or no knowledge. The proportional representation system, which will allocate 40 seats to political parties in the 80-seat parliament, is a mystery to 88.9% of respondents. Similarly, 89.1% are unaware of the voting process for district representatives for 32 seats, and 88.7% lack understanding of the sectoral assemblies that will elect representatives for eight seats. Additionally, 85.9% of respondents have minimal to no knowledge that the Chief Minister will be elected by the 80 Members of Parliament (MPs) rather than directly by the electorate.


The survey also sheds light on how the BARMM electorate consumes information. Social media and the Internet have emerged as dominant sources, with 38% of respondents citing them as their main sources of election information. However, family and friends remain the most relied upon, with 42.2% of respondents turning to them for information. Other significant sources include barangay officials and government leaders (32.4%) and radio (26.3%). Print media, on the other hand, is barely used, with only 1% of respondents mentioning it as a source.


Only 1% of likely voters have received information from COMELEC, underscoring the need for urgent and widespread voter education initiatives.


Source of Awareness of Political Parties


The survey further reveals that information about political parties is predominantly sourced from personal networks. Four out of ten respondents (41.2%) rely on family and friends for information about political parties, underscoring the importance of close social circles in BARMM politics. Additionally, 32% depend on barangay captains and other local government leaders.


Despite challenges such as poor data signals and power interruptions, social media and the Internet serve as political information sources for 35% of likely voters. Local radio is also a key medium, with 24.7% of respondents using it to learn about political parties. Print media remains the least utilized, at 3.7%.


Interestingly, social media acts as a digital extension of personal social circles, enabling interactions with family and friends online and fostering virtual relationships. This contrasts sharply with print media, which provides one-way communication from writers to readers without the interactive component.


Voter Education a Must


The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and regional bodies like the Bangsamoro Electoral Office (BEO) have a crucial role in improving voter education in BARMM. Given that the electorate is predominantly women, younger, poorer, and less educated, targeted strategies are essential. With 83.4% of respondents reporting a monthly household income of less than PhP 9,100 (US$158), 33.5% having only attended elementary school, 12.7% having no formal schooling, and 32.1% aged 17 to 29, educational initiatives must be tailored to this demographic.


IAG Research suggests that COMELEC and BEO prioritize using visual and engaging content, such as illustrations, videos, comics, and cartoons, which are more accessible and attractive than text-heavy materials. Facilitating voter education through informal settings rather than formal interviews aligns better with the cultural context and communication preferences of the BARMM electorate. Given the younger demographic, platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Messenger, Viber, YouTube and X should be the main channels for disseminating electoral information, as viral content can significantly expand reach by leveraging the influence of family and friends.


Local radio ads and appearances on popular BARMM radio programs should also be prioritized, given radio's significance as an information source. Ensuring that all educational materials are available in Filipino and major local languages—Meranaw, Maguindanaon and Tausug—will enhance accessibility and comprehension. Collaborations with the Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC), Bangsamoro Women’s Commission (BWC), and local women and youth civil society organizations can intensify voter education efforts.


Development agencies and civil society organizations can also contribute significantly by partnering with COMELEC, regional governments, and each other. They can develop and distribute accurate voter education materials in local languages via social media and the Internet, aiming to both inform and motivate voters. Addressing key voter concerns such as livelihood projects and educational opportunities within existing programs can increase voter engagement by highlighting the elections' relevance to their daily lives. Integrating voter education into ongoing initiatives and providing support to organizations focusing on these areas will reinforce the importance of civic participation.


The survey had a sample size of 384 respondents each from Cotabato City, Special Geographic Area, and the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. This sample size provides a 99% confidence level with a 1.77% confidence interval. Provincial margins are at a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error.


For press information about the survey, contact IAG Research at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


About IAG Research

IAG Research, affiliated with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), is a leading authority on human security and governance issues in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Leveraging IAG’s in-depth understanding of the BARMM’s cultural context, governance dynamics, and historical conflicts, IAG Research produces pioneering research that sheds light on critical issues facing the region. Its studies have influenced policy and program development throughout the Philippines, impacting areas such as Indigenous Peoples’ rights, madrasah education, and the prevention of violent extremism. This commitment to impactful research establishes IAG Research as a vital contributor to positive change within the BARMM.

IAG Research is located at Unit 801 8F The Linden Suites, No. 37 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Philippines.