Cabanatuan City plebiscite postponed for the 3rd time
MANILA, Philippines – Due to lack of funds, the planned plebiscite for the conversion of Cabanatuan City to a highly urbanized city (HUC) is again cancelled – for the 3rd time.
Based on Minute Resolution 14-0732 signed on October 21, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) approved the recommendation of Deputy Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz Jr to reset the plebiscite for the conversion of Cabanatuan City, supposed to be conducted on Saturday, November 8.
According to the minute resolution, the plebiscite will be "scheduled and set upon receipt of the certificate of availability of funds from LGU-Cabanatuan City."
Sinocruz said that as soon as Comelec set the plebiscite to November 8, Cabanatuan City Treasurer Florida Oca informed them that they "cannot provide yet the required certificate of availability of funds."
Around P101 million is needed for the plebiscite, in which P47.52 million must be remitted to Comelec.
Comelec signed on September 24 a resolution which set for November 8 the long-pending plebiscite for the conversion of Nueva Ecija's most populous city.
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.
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.
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) – Rappler.com