Comelec postpones Dec.1 plebiscite in Cabanatuan City

Nueva Ecija Gov Aurelio Umali asked the Supreme Court to suspend the plebiscite that will convert Cabanatuan City to a high-urbanized city

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to postpone until after the May 2013 elections the plebiscite for the conversion of Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija to a highly-urbanized city (HUC).

Comelec promulgated Resolution 9563, which suspends the plebiscite that was originally scheduled tommorow, December 1. Residents of Cabanatuan City were set to vote on the conversion of their locality from a component city to an HUC, the second time such a plebiscite will be conducted in the country since 14 years ago.

If the yes vote wins, the city’s 216,480 voters won’t be casting their votes anymore for candidates in provincial positions, as provided in the Local Government Code.

In its resolution, the Comelec noted that Nueva Ecija Gov Aurelio Umali asked the Supreme Court on November 15 to suspend the plebiscite.

Umali has been opposing the conversion of Cabanatuan City, saying the voters of the entire province should be consulted on the matter, something that the Code doesn’t require.

Also, a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by Branch 40 of the Regional Trial Court in Palayan City to “restrain the appropriation/disbursement of fund for the plebiscite by the City Council of Cabanatuan City.”

“In view of the legal uncertainties arising out of the afore-mentioned cases, and considering that the Commission is now in the thick of preparations for next year’s electoral exercise, the Commission deems it prudent to postpone the December 1, 2012 plebiscite,” the poll body said.

Cabanatuan accounts for about half of the voters’ population of the 3rd district, where Umali was congressman from 2001 to 2007 and where his wife Czarina Umali is the incumbent.

If Cabanatuan voters won’t participate in the gubernatorial election, this would take away a considerable portion of Governor Umali’s base as he runs for re-election in May.

He is being challenged by 1st district Rep Josie Manuel-Joson, who is said to be close to President Benigno Aquino III, having been the latter’s seat mate at the House of Representatives when both were members of Congress.

In 1998, then President Fidel Ramos issued a proclamation to make Cabanatuan an HUC, but the voters rejected it. – Rappler.com