The plebiscite to ratify Republic Act (RA) 11259 dividing Palawan into three provinces will push through despite the pending Supreme Court (SC) case assailing its constitutionality.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Resolution No. 10620 promulgated on Tuesday prescribed the calendar of activities and certain prohibited acts in line with the plebiscite.
COMELEC spokesperson Jomel Ordas said that residents of Puerto Princesa City will not be part of the polls, citing Section 54 of RA 11259 specifically excluding the voters from the highly urbanized city with around 40 percent of the total registered voters in the province.
“The pending SC case has no effect on the resolution issued because it is our duty to carry on with our task. Unless the Court has explicitly told us not, it is business as usual for us,” Ordas said.
On June 26, a 28-page petition signed by representatives of Save Palawan Movement (SPM) asked the high court to nullify the controversial law. The petition was filed against the polling body, the Provincial Government of Palawan (PGP), the Provincial Treasurers Office (PTO), and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The fight continues
Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, one of the legal counsels of SPM, maintained that the law violates the right of suffrage of Puerto Princesans citing section 10 of Article 10 of the Constitution that the law is “subject to approval by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”
Provincial Information Officer (PIO) Winston Arzaga dismissed the SPM’s claim, describing the group as “misguided.”
“This is a dead issue. The city council already made a statement that they are in favor of the division,” Arzaga said.
This was pursuant to RA 11259, the law aiming to divide Palawan into three provinces namely Palawan Oriental, Palawan del Norte, and Palawan del Sur with the latter being the “mother province”.
Based on the resolution, the casting of votes will be held from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. set on May 11, 2020. The canvassing of votes shall then follow with the proclamation of results expected at its conclusion.
In the same resolution, the poll body also prescribed the calendar of activities and periods of certain prohibited acts in connection with the plebiscite.
The plebiscite period is set from April 11 to May 18, 2020. During this period, it will be prohibited to carry or transport firearms and other deadly weapons in public places; transfer or detail officers and employees in the civil service; suspend local elective officials; illegal release of prisoners; and organize or maintain strike forces.
The information and campaign period will begin on April 11, and will end on May 9, 2020.
Prohibited acts during the period are removing, destroying, obliterating, defacing, tampering or preventing distribution of lawful election propaganda to mention a few.
During the midterm elections on May 2019, there were a total of 583,057 registered voters in the province.