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Plebiscite on Cabanatuan HUC conversion set on Jan. 25

Manny Galvez - The Philippine Star

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has set on Jan. 25 the plebiscite on the conversion of Cabanatuan from a component city into a highly urbanized city (HUC).

In Resolution 1353, the Comelec approved the date with only registered voters of the city allowed to take part in the plebiscite.

In a memorandum, Comelec deputy executive director for operations Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. forwarded copies of the resolution to Comelec-Central Luzon director Rafael Olano, Nueva Ecija election supervisor Panfilo Doctor Jr., and Cabanatuan election officer Arsenio Reyes.

The plebiscite was set as Cabanatuan Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara, in a letter last Nov. 29, requested the Comelec to proceed with the plebiscite for HUC conversion since the national and local elections were over.

President Aquino issued on July 4, 2012 Presidential Proclamation 418 converting Cabanatuan into an HUC. The conversion though has to be ratified in a plebiscite at a date to be set by the Comelec.

The conversion is being opposed by Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali, resulting in a feud with Vergara, his erstwhile political ally.

The poll body originally set the plebiscite on Dec. 1, 2012 but this was postponed as the Palayan City regional trial court (RTC) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The Comelec subsequently issued a resolution postponing the plebiscite because of its proximity to the national and local elections.

On June 28 last year, Vergara, shortly after he was re-elected, wrote the Comelec, asking it to revisit the conduct of the plebiscite but the poll body said it was forced to defer all actions until after the barangay polls. 

In his Nov. 29 letter, Vergara said there is no more legal impediment as the TRO issued by the Palayan RTC had lapsed and the Supreme Court had not issued a TRO on the issue.   

Earlier, the poll body had denied Umali’s petition to allow all qualified voters in the whole province to take part in the plebiscite.

In his petition, Umali said Novo Ecijanos will be affected once Cabanatuan becomes an HUC, thus it is imperative for them to participate in the plebiscite. He filed a verified motion for reconsideration that the poll body also denied.

This is the second attempt to convert the city into an HUC. In 1995, Vergara’s predecessor, Manolette Liwag, pushed for it, and then President Fidel Ramos gave his support.

However, the move lost badly during the plebiscite largely due to opposition from the camp of the Josons who were unseated by Umali a decade later, ending their half-century reign at the capitol.

ARSENIO REYES AURELIO UMALI BARTOLOME SINOCRUZ JR. CABANATUAN CABANATUAN MAYOR JULIUS CESAR VERGARA COMELEC COMELEC-CENTRAL LUZON IN RESOLUTION PLEBISCITE UMALI VERGARA
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