Plebiscite on law dividing Palawan into 3 suspended
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has suspended all preparations related to the plebiscite scheduled on May 11 to ratify the law dividing Palawan into three provinces.
The Comelec, in a memorandum promulgated on March 25 but was only released on Thursday, suspended all preparatory activities related to the Palawan plebiscite due to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, which subsequently affected the calendar of activities earlier set by the poll body.
“The commission en banc, after due deliberation, has approved the suspension of all preparatory activities relative to the conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division of the province of Palawan, upon the recommendation citing the expanded community quarantine declared by President Rodrigo Duterte,” said Consuelo Diola, acting Comelec secretary.
The Comelec has yet to set the new date for the plebiscite.
The current administration of the provincial government headed by Gov. Jose Alvarez, who was the main proponent for the division, has earlier allocated some P80 million for the Palawan plebiscite.
Winston Arzaga, provincial information officer, said that Capitol will honor the poll body’s decision, and immediately suspended its campaign in favor of the division.
“The P80-million budget can no longer be reallocated because it was already deposited to [the] Comelec. Besides, they have probably used most of it in personnel training and printing of ballot,” Arzaga said.
One Palawan, a civic group movement that challenged before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 11259, the law that allowed Palawan to be broken up into three, expressed joy over the Comelec’s decision to suspend the plebiscite, saying it was a “divine intervention.”
RA 11259, signed by Mr. Duterte on April 5, 2019, divides Palawan into the provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan del Sur, with the last as the mother province.
The new provinces will be created upon the approval of majority through the plebiscite supposed to be conducted and supervised by the Comelec on May 11.
Cynthia Sumagaysay-Del Rosario, one of the convenors of the group that opposed RA 11259, slammed the provincial government for allegedly taking credit for the suspension, pointing out that they made the request first before a similar recommendation was enacted by the provincial board.
“I wrote a request [on] March 18 for the plebiscite not to push through. The Comelec met en banc and decided to postpone the May 11 plebiscite in Palawan [on March 25]. There was suddenly a ‘special session’ at the provincial council to plan their request for postponement. That’s when the “nahuling” (belated) move [of Alvarez] comes in,” she said.
The provincial board, in a special session held on March 27, authorized Alvarez to petition the Comelec for the postponement of the plebiscite.
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