EXPLAINER: Palawan plebiscite: What voters, campaigners should know | Inquirer News

EXPLAINER: Palawan plebiscite: What voters, campaigners should know

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 05:44 PM February 11, 2021


MANILA, Philippines — As the plebiscite to ratify law splitting Palawan into three provinces nears, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday issued guidelines for both voters and campaigners.


A recap on the Palawan Plebiscite

According to Republic Act No. 11259 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 5, 2019, the province of Palawan will be divided into three provinces which will be named Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.

Under the law, Palawan del Norte will have Taytay as its capital and will be composed of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linapacan, and El Nido.


Meanwhile, Roxas will be the capital of Palawan Oriental. Araceli, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, Cagayancillo, and San Vicente will be included as part of the province.

Brooke’s Point will be the capital of Palawan del Sur, which will be the “mother province.” The province will consist of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Española, Bataraza, Balabac, and Kalayaan, whose only barangay is Pag-Asa Island in the South China Sea

In a virtual press briefing, Atty. Coreen Nefalar of the Office of the Deputy Executive Director for Operations (Odedo) said that a total of 490,639 registered voters across the 23 municipalities of Palawan is expected to vote on whether the partition of the province should be ratified or rejected.

Puerto Princesa City, the current capital, will not take part in the plebiscite or in future elections in any of the new provinces as it will have its own district representative.

Nefalar also detailed that there will be 2,959 clustered precincts, 3,250 established precincts, 487 voting centers, and 3,446 Plebiscite Committees (PlebCom) for the upcoming plebiscite.

When will it be held?

According to Comelec, the plebiscite is set to be held on March 13. Registered voters can cast their votes from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The commission said the counting and canvassing of votes shall begin from 3 p.m. onwards.

The voting was initially planned to be held in May last year but was suspended by the Comelec due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Anti-Covid-19 measures

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases announced last year that it has approved a two-day voting period with five voters in one room at a time as a protocol for the plebiscite.

“Registered voters between the ages of 18 and 21 years old and those who are 60 years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women shall be exempt from mobility restrictions for the purpose of voting,” presidential spokesperson Happy Roque said in a statement.

Comelec has also issued its anti-Covid-19 measures to ensure the health safety of the people who will participate in the voting processes amid the ongoing pandemic.

The only persons allowed inside a polling place, according to Nefalar, are “the PlebCom members; one watcher each from the proponent, oppositor, and accredited Citizens’ Arm; and a maximum of five voters voting simultaneously at any given time.”

She added that only 200 voters will be allowed to vote in each clustered precincts.

  • Also included in the anti-Covid-19 measures approved by Comelec and IATF are:
  • Inspection of voters before entry to the voting centers (thermal check)
  • No face mask, no face shield, no entry
  • Submission of pre-filled Health Declaration Form
  • Medical personnel stationed at every voting center
  • Observance of minimum public health standards such as physical distancing
  • Disinfection station and foot bath in every polling place
  • PlebCom members shall be in PPEs
  • Use of voting booths
  • Disinfection of frequently touched objects

Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas explained that voters who will have a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher and/or those who answered “yes” to any of the questions in the Health Declaration Forms will be issued certification or clearance from medical personnel in the polling place.

After receiving a certification or clearance, the voters will be directed to an isolation polling place (IPP) where they can safely cast their votes.

Elnas added that the commission has procured and will distribute Covid-19 supplies in the 23 municipalities.

Voter guidelines

During the press briefing, Elnas likewise, reported that election officers have already posted the computerized list of voters in different barangays, municipal halls, and offices of election officers in Palawan except in Puerto Princesa.

In addition to posting the list of registered voters ahead of the plebiscite, Comelec also decided to set up voter’s assistance desks in every polling place to help voters find their polling precinct and sequence number.

This will also prevent queueing and crowding of voters in polling places.

To guide the voters on the voting process for the plebiscite, the commission listed the order of voting – which also aims to prevent health risks brought by Covid-19.

The order of voting issued by Comelec states that:

1. The voters should vote in the order of their arrival and must sanitize both hands before entering polling precincts;
2. Voters must wear a face mask and face shield;
3. No watcher shall enter the areas reserved for voters and PlebCom;
4. No watcher shall mingle and talk with the voters;
5. Persons carrying any firearm or other deadly weapon, except those expressly authorized by the commission, will be barred from entering the polling place;
6. There shall be no crowding of voters and any disorderly behavior;
7. Everyone must observe and comply with the one-meter physical/social distancing;
8. The voters having cast their votes shall immediately leave.

Each voter is required to answer the question: “Pumapayag ka ba na hatiin ang Probinsya ng Palawan sa tatlong (3) probinsya na papangalanang: Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, at Palawan del Sur alinsunod sa Batas Republika Bilang 11259?”

(Do you allow the division of Palawan into three provinces namely Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur, in accordance with Republic Act no. 11259?)

Campaign guidelines

Meanwhile, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that those who will be campaigning for or against the ratification of the law must follow several guidelines issued by the commission.

  • The following specifications, Jimenez said, should be strictly followed for any lawful campaign propaganda promoting the approval or disapproval of the RA 11259:
  • “Pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers, or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed eight and one-half inches (8 1/2) in width and fourteen inches (14″) in length.”
  • “Handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against the ratification of the law.”
  • “Posters made of cloth, paper, cardboard, or any other material, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding 2 feet by 3 feet which shall be posted on designated common poster areas or on private property with the consent of the owner.”
  • “Streamers not exceeding 3 feet by 8 feet in size displayed during the conduct of symposia, fora, debates, or “pulong-pulongs.” Said streamers may be displayed five (5) days before the date of the symposia, fora, debates, or “pulong-pulongs” and shall be removed within twenty-four (24) hours after said activity.”
  • “Social media posts, whether original or re-posted from some source, which may either be incidental to the poster’s advocacies of social issues or which may have, for its primary purpose, the endorsement or non-endorsement of the law only.”
  • “Mobile units, vehicles, motorcades of all types, whether engine or manpower driven or animal drawn, with or without sound systems or loudspeakers and with or without lights.”
  • “In the headquarters and residences of individuals or groups campaigning for the approval or disapproval of the law, lawful paraphernalia may be displayed, but banners or streamers shall not be allowed.”
    In terms of paid advertisements in broadcast, internet, mobile, or print media, Jimenez said:
  • “Print advertisements shall not exceed one-fourth (1/4) page in broadsheet and one-half (1/2) page in tabloids and shall not be published more than three (3) times a week per newspaper, magazine, or other publication during the information and campaign period.”
  • “Broadcast propaganda shall not exceed to not more than a total of sixty (60) minutes of television advertising, on a per station basis, whether appearing on national, regional, or local, free or cable television, and ninety (90) minutes on radio advertising, on a per station basis, whether airing on national, regional, or local radio, whether by purchase or donation.”

The Comelec spokesperson likewise, encouraged campaigners to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials. Any material which may contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of the campaign propaganda is not allowed.

The information campaign period – whether held online, televised, radio-aired, or through “pulong-pulongs,” symposia, fora, or debates — begins on February 11 and will end on March 11.

The commission emphasized that everyone, including those from Puerto Princesa and other parts of the country, is allowed to campaign and participate in symposiums or debates. However, Comelec reiterated that only those among the registered voters from the 23 municipalities are allowed to vote in the plebiscite.

“Kahit sino naman puwede mag campaign. In fact, people from any part of the Philippines, as long as you’re a citizen of the Philippines, you can campaign but you are not allowed to vote,” said Commissioner Antonio Kho.

“Everyone is welcome, wala po tayong pipigilan na mag-attend o mag participate at hanggang kakayanin we will accomodate all sides of the issue. Ang importante po ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon ang bawal Palaweño na marinig ang information on both sides at sila po ay makapag decide para mai-voice out nila ang kanilang saloobin sa isyung ito,” Jimenez followed.

Still, they added that health protocols should always be observed, especially during face-to-face activities.

“It is free to campaign and to join symposiums and debates. Our only concern is that we will not stand down as far as the implementation of the minimum health standards in every campaign,” Elnas said.

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TAGS: Comelec, Commission on Elections, Palawan, Palawan plebiscite
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