TO help avoid a possible postponement now that the date for a plebiscite for split of Barangay Guadalupe has been set, Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) has asked the Office of the President to provide the funds for the exercise.

He asked that the President advance the P1.458 million, due to the urgency in holding the plebiscite, which is scheduled on Feb. 28.

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Cuenco, in a letter to the President dated Jan. 21, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is still awaiting the release of its budget under the General Appropriations Act, which she has yet to sign.

“In view of the urgency of the conduct of such plebiscite, we would like to request that the funding requirement be advanced by the Office of the President subject to reimbursement from the Comelec once their budget for the year is released,” he said.

He said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has promised to release the amount, which he will follow up this week.

“Mao nay akong adtoon sa Malacañang. Mao nay akong totokan ron,” he told Sun.Star Cebu over the weekend.

In a separate interview yesterday, Vice Mayor Michael Rama said the plebiscite should proceed and that postponement is not an option.

Asked if the City will be willing to lend the amount, he said he was sure Cuenco will exhaust all means to find the funds.

“I’m pretty sure Tony (Cuenco) will find a way to do that. He will exhaust all means…and lobby to have that released. I am not for postponement. I want to have that pursued,” Rama said.

Cuenco said he is also willing to have the amount sourced from his priority development assistance fund just so the plebiscite can proceed.

Expenses

The Comelec has set the plebiscite for the creation of Barangay Banawa Englis in Cebu City on Feb. 28.

Deputy Executive Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. said the estimated expense for the plebiscite is P1.458 million, which should be charged to the Comelec’s Contingent Fund.

He, however, said in a Jan. 15 urgent memorandum that the fund has been depleted that it cannot finance the holding of the plebiscite.

“Upon verbal inquiry, the Budget Division, Finance Services Department, replied that the Commission has no appropriation to defray the expenses to be incurred in the conduct of the plebiscite,” Sinocruz said.

Cuenco said he spoke with Comelec Chairman Jose Melo and was also told about the lack of funds.

“It has been a long road with a lot of thorns,” he said over the next hurdle to the creation of the new barangay.

The Comelec set the schedule for the plebiscite after Republic Act 9905, or “An Act Creating a Barangay to be known as Barangay Banawa-Englis in the City of Cebu,” was published last Jan. 11.

The law takes effect today, or 15 days after its publication.

As stipulated under Section 2, the plebiscite is to be held within 30 days after the effectivity of the law, or within next month.

Cuenco said that since the 30th day falls on a Friday, the Comelec set the date on Feb. 28, which is a Sunday, so that more people would flock to polling precincts to vote because there is no work.

He also said he is amenable to the suggestion that the election of the first set of Banawa-Englis officials, given that the yes votes win in the referendum, would just be done during the regular schedule of barangay elections.

Section 3 of RA 9905 stipulates that the special election of the first set of barangay officials be “within 60 days after the ratification by the majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite.”

Cuenco filed House Bill 5234 on Sept. 30, 2008 after the council failed to set the plebiscite for Ordinance 1661, or “An Ordinance Dividing Barangay Guadalupe, Defining and Delineating the Boundaries of the Subdivision, Setting up and Providing Resources and Assistance to the emerging New Barangay on its Initial Corporate Existence.”

The new law specifies 57 “puroks” or neighborhoods under the new barangay, and identifies natural boundaries, specifically the bodies of water like rivers and creeks, to delineate its territory to avoid conflict over jurisdiction.

RA 9905 also defines the territorial boundary of Banawa Englis, and identified the seat of government of the new barangay as the old Sitio Banawa.

He had argued that Guadalupe, the biggest barangay in Cebu City and in the whole Visayas, 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 totaling over 23,700.