IN CHARTS: How Bulacan towns vote on bid to convert San Jose del Monte into highly-urbanized city

James Patrick Cruz

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IN CHARTS: How Bulacan towns vote on bid to convert San Jose del Monte into highly-urbanized city

BSKE 2023. Some election officers prepare election paraphernalia and ballot boxes on October 29, 2023 ahead of the barangay and SK polls.

San Jose Del Monte City government

Out of the 24 localities in Bulacan, 22 voted against the move to convert San Jose del Monte into a highly-urbanized city

MANILA, Philippines – Bulacan voters rejected the law that seeks to convert San Jose del Monte (SJDM) into a highly-urbanized city (HUC) – independent from the provincial government.

Based on the certificate of canvass of votes and proclamation released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, November 1, the “no” votes totaled 820,385, outnumbering the 620,707 “yes” votes.

Among the 24 localities in Bulacan, 22 opposed the proposal to convert San Jose del Monte into an HUC.

While San Jose del Monte itself rejected the conversion, the margin between the “yes” (49%) and “no” (51%) votes was visibly narrow.

The “yes” vote prevailed only in the neighboring towns of San Jose Del Monte – Marilao and Meycauayan.

In Meycauayan, 61,214 (70%) were in favor of the conversion, while 26,554 (30%) were against it. Meanwhile, in Marilao, 55% voted “yes,” while 45% opted for “no.”

Norzagaray recorded the highest percentage of “no” votes at 76%, trailed by Hagonoy (71%), Bulakan (68%), and Paombong (68%).

The plebiscite, coinciding with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, on Monday, October 30, petitioned to ratify Proclamation No. 1057, a Duterte-time order that sought to convert San Jose del Monte from a component city into a HUC.

The Comelec reported that out of the 2,092,248 registered voters in Bulacan, only 1,608,004 people, or 76.86% participated in the local elections.

Of those who voted in the barangay elections in Bulacan, 166,004 did not participate in the plebiscite, which means their ballots were left blank.

Pros and cons

Critics of the proposed shift to HUC status had argued that the conversion would lead to higher taxes in the city, resulting in a higher cost of living.

Concerns were also raised about the autonomy of San Jose del Monte from the province jeopardizing the scholarship grants provided by the provincial government to students in the city.

Prior to the plebiscite, Governor Daniel Fernando, when asked where he stands on the issue, said “no father is happy when he sees his child leave,” but insisted that in the spirit of democracy, the public should have the final say.

Meanwhile, advocates argued that the conversion of San Jose Del Monte will serve as a catalyst for economic progress, benefiting the entire province, particularly its neighboring towns.

They also asserted that the delivery of services from the provincial government will be expedited, as it will have to focus on one less town.

It will also allow city officials to directly oversee government policies.

“As the father of the city of SJDM, I, along with the people of San Jose, dream of it becoming a fully-fledged HUC, because I believe it will bring significant opportunities and progress to our city and province,” San Jose del Monte City Mayor Arthur Robes said.

Robes and his wife San Jose Del Monte City lone district Representative Florida were active in the campaign to convert their town into an HUC. Their campaign was backed by the National Movement of Young Legislators Bulacan and Iglesia Ni Cristo.

Robes, a member of Duterte’s PDP-Laban was the author of the bill seeking the conversion of the town into an HUC.

Meeting the criteria for a HUC, San Jose del Monte boasts of having a population of over 600,000, which is thrice the minimum requirement of 200,000, according to the Local Government Code of 1991.

In 2022, the city posted a P141 million net income, surpassing the P50-million threshold specified by the law.

Under the Duterte administration, San Jose del Monte held the record for the most number of drug-related killings reported among cities and municipalities in Bulacan. – with reports from Dwight De Leon/Rappler.com

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