TO avoid influencing voters, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday said he will not say whether or not he will vote for the split of Barangay Guadalupe, after President Arroyo signed Republic Act (RA) 9905 into law last Jan. 7.

He said that while he favors Sitios Banawa and Englis separating from Guadalupe, it is the people who must decide what they want.

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As a resident, he said, all that he can tell the people are inputs, but he will not tell them how to vote during the plebiscite the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must set.

“I’m in favor of the division of Guadalupe. But what should be reflected is the opinion of the people…. Just let the people decide…. I do not want my opinion to influence people,” he said.

He also said that separation from Guadalupe might cause “trauma” to old-time residents who are used to being part of the barangay.

RA 9905 is the “Act Creating a Barangay to be Known as Barangay Banawa-Englis in the City of Cebu.”

It specifies 57 puroks or neighborhoods under the new barangay, and identifies natural boundaries, specifically the bodies of water like rivers and creeks, to identify its territory.

Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south), who drafted the measure at the House of Representatives, identified the seat of government of the new barangay as the old Sitio Banawa.

RA 9905 also defines the territorial boundary of Banawa Englis, and says that the Commission on Elections must “conduct and supervise the plebiscite, to be held in the area affected within 30 days from the effectivity of this Act.”

The law will take effect 15 days after its publication in two national and two local newspapers.

Since the measure is expected to be published today, it will take effect within the month, so that the plebiscite should be held by the Comelec within March.

In the plebiscite, Guadalupe residents must vote “yes” if they favor the creation of the new barangay, or “no” if they do not.

The mayor said Guadalupe’s territory is so huge “it is bigger than any other barangay in Cebu” and “enough for eight barangays.”

Cuenco had argued that Guadalupe also has a population that is three times bigger than most barangays in the city.

According to the National Statistics Office, the current population of Guadalupe is around 47,700, with Banawa and Englis residents numbering over 23,700.

The mayor, though, said he received information that Sitio Englis residents also want their own barangay.

That was why he said that if he is elected as south district representative, he will propose the division of Guadalupe into three barangays.