MANILA, Philippines – A month from now, all registered voters in Nueva Ecija province will vote whether to upgrade the status of Cabanatuan from a component city into a highly urbanized city (HUC).
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) signed on September 24 Minute Resolution 14-0541, which sets for November 8 the long-pending plebiscite for the conversion of Nueva Ecija’s most populous city.
The poll body’s resolution came 5 months after the Supreme Court (SC) finally approved to conduct the plebiscite in the city. Voting 9-5-1, the High Court instructed Comelec to conduct the voting across the province, not just within the affected city.
The resolution states that 1,360,508 registered voters are expected to participate in the plebiscite. During the 2013 midterm polls, there are 1,363,633 registered voters in Nueva Ecija, with 219,430 coming from Cabanatuan.
The planned Cabanatuan plebiscite has been postponed twice in the past years. In 1998, President Fidel Ramos issued a proclamation to make the city an HUC, but the voters rejected it.
Then in 2012, President Benigno Aquino III issued the same proclamation. It was suspended twice – first through a postponement by the Comelec due to the 2013 midterm polls, and second through the TRO filed by Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Matias Umali.
The Local Government Code (LGC) states that a city can be accorded HUC status if its population, as certified by the National Statistics Office, reaches at least 200,000, and its income is at least P50 million at 1991 constant prices.
Cabanatuan has a population of 272,676 as of 2010, and has an annual regular income of P235 million at 1991 constant prices.
Once an HUC, Cabanatuan voters will no longer cast their votes for provincial posts.
Cabanatuan voters account for half of the voting population of Nueva Ecija’s 3rd District, represented in Congress by Umali from 2001 to 2007. It is currently being represented by his wife Czarina.
Umali – a former Lakas regional leader who defected to the Liberal Party – has a strong voter base in the city. Umali, however, is already on his third term as governor.
The Umalis have been in a half-decade-long rivalry with the Josons in ruling politics over the province. (READ: Pol rivalry in Comelec-controlled Nueva Ecija)
Nueva Ecija is one of 4 provinces tagged as an election hot spot for 4 consecutive elections now. Data from the Philippine National Police cites 3 cases of shooting related to the elections in 2010. – Rappler.com
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