The provincial government had successfully lobbied the national inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases (IATF-EID) to allow the holding of a plebiscite amidst the pandemic to ratify the law dividing Palawan into three provinces.
Winston Arzaga, provincial information officer (PIO), in a phone interview on Saturday said that Governor Alvarez met with Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the government’s response against COVID-19, on Tuesday (October 6) to “personally explain the situation in the province”.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. The plebiscite has to happen. Malaysia, and United States (US) is holding elections despite the COVID-19 crisis. And besides, we have a low number of cases compared to other provinces,” Arzaga said.
The IATF-MEID, through presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, on Friday said that government has approved a two-day voting period for the Palawan plebiscite by first quarter of 2021.
Roque said that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was asked to devise safety mechanisms to also let patients of COVID-19 exercise their right to vote. During the two-day plebiscite, which is yet to have a final schedule, five voters will be allowed in one room at a time.
“These include the period of voting over the course of two days and five voters in the room at any particular time. 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,” Roque said.
Cynthia Sumagaysay-Del Rosario, one of the conveners of One Palawan campaign of the Save Palawan Movement, said they will “work double-time on vote-rich” municipalities that were known to be strong political allies of the provincial administration pushing for the division of Palawan.
According to the 2019 data from COMELEC, Five municipalities in Palawan are the focal areas of campaigns because of their potential to influence the outcome of the plebiscite.
The vote-rich municipalities include Bataraza with 48,491 voters; Taytay with 40,734; Brooke’s Point with 39,933; Narra with 36,727; and Roxas with 36,715; amounting to almost half of the Palaweño votes at 202,600 of 490,639 registered voters.
“We have limited budget so we still have to strategize our campaign,” Del Rosario said.
The Supreme Court, voting 15-0, on March 10 in a 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr., dismissed the petition for prohibition filed by the civil society group One Palawan Movement challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act (RA) 11250, or the law dividing Palawan into three provinces.
Lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda, one of the counsel of Save Palawan Movement (SPM), in a separate phone interview on Saturday said that the civic society group is yet to file a motion for reconsideration in line with the High Court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court was silent on the wealth-sharing issue, and this is something that we want to point out,” Anda said.
The COMELEC in Palawan has declined to issue a statement, saying they have yet to receive a memorandum from the Central Office pertaining to the calendar of activities in line with the Palawan plebiscite 2021.
With reports from Patricia Laririt and Aira Genesa Magdayao