Comelec all set for HUC referendum

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    CABANATUAN CITY – At least 600 security forces from the police and military will be deployed in this city for the conduct of a plebiscite on Dec. 1 which will ratify or deny President Aquino’s Proclamation 418 that upgrades its status from component into highly urbanized city (HUC), a poll official said.

    Lawyer Michael Camangeg, city election officer, said permits to carry firearms outside residence will also be suspended beginning Nov. 5, marking the start of the plebiscite period.

    This, despite a temporary restraining order reportedly issued by the regional trial court against the holding of the plebiscite upon the petition of the provincial government led by Gov. Aurelio Umali.

    Camangeg refused to talk about the TRO.

    Umali who said that the entire province will be affected by the move to upgrade this city’s status to HUC petitioned to allow the registered voters in Nueva Ecija’s 27 towns and four other cities to participate in the referendum. The Comelec voted 4-2 against the petition.

    Subsequently, it issued Resolution no. 12-096 which set the referendum on Dec. 1.

    The provincial chief executive cited the July 11, 1986 Supreme Court ruling in Tan vs Comelec case over the creation of Negros del Norte where 2,768.4 square kilometers from the land area of the parent province would be sliced off to create a new province.

    He cited the separate concurring opinion on the case by the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee who pointed out that limiting plebiscite voting to people in the seceding territory only is “as absurd and illogical as allowing only the secessionists to vote for the secession they demand against the wishes of the majority which also nullifies the basic principle of majority rule.”

    Umali also underscored the plebiscite voting issue that was raised before the Comelec by Rizal Gov. Casimiro Ynares who argued that qualified voters of the entire province must be allowed to vote for the HUC status bid of Antipolo Cty.

    But Vice Mayor Marius A. Garcia said it was their position that the plebiscite to be conducted by the Comelec should be limited only to the qualified voters of Cabanatuan City as enunciated in Section 453 of Republic Act 7160, or Local Government Code of 1991.

    The phrase “qualified voters therein” refers to the qualified voters of Cabanatuan City only and does not include the qualified voters of the province of Nueva Ecija, Garcia said.

    Garcia said that the conversion of a component city into a highly-urbanized city shall make it independent of the province where it is geographically located.

    Camangeg said his office has already on hand the list of teachers from the Department of Education for the appointment of plebiscite committee.

    “We would advise the police and the army to look for sources of personnel that we can deploy here in Cabanatuan come plebiscite day, and starting November 5,” Camangeg said.

    Those who would need to carry firearms must secure permit from the Comelec, he said.

    Camangeg said that the city government has already deposited P11,065,700 to the Comelec main office which forms part of the P20,071,700 budget for plebiscite as determined by the poll body’s operations office.

    The Comelec has yet to release its calendar of activities, he said.

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