THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc approved last Wednesday the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the March 13 plebiscite for the separation of Sitios Banawa and Englis from Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.

In particular, Section 4 of Resolution 8774 set the information campaign period for the plebiscite to start on Feb. 18, or last Thursday, and to end on March 11, 2010.

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“During this period, civic, professional, religious, business, youth, and any other similar organizations may hold symposia, public rallies or meetings to enlighten the voters of the said barangay on the plebiscite issues,” it said.

“Constructive discussions and debates shall be encouraged and the voters assured of the freedom to voice their opinion regarding the issues, advantages or disadvantages thereof,” it also said.

Lawyer Edwin Cadungog, Cebu City south district election officer, said he will wait for Comelec Manila to send him the funds for the publication of the resolution.

As election officer, he is also in charge of convening pulong-pulongs (barangay assemblies) for “constructive discussions and debates,” in coordination with local officials, the media, non-government organizations and religious groups.

The resolution included guidelines on the voting hours, which is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the plebiscite committee composition, duties, compensation and functions; disqualifications; the official ballot; the preliminaries to the counting of votes; manner of vote counting; the selection of board of canvassers; the canvassing procedures; the distribution of the certificate of canvass and proclamation (COCP); and the applicability of the Omnibus Election Code and other election rules.

Guadalupe residents who can take part in the plebiscite are only those who are registered voters of the barangay as of the Nov. 29, 2009 election registration board hearing.

They will answer either “yes” or “no” to the question “Do you approve of the creation of a new barangay to be segregated from Barangay Guada-lupe, to be named as Barangay Banawa-Englis, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9905 approved on January 07, 2010 by her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?”

Resolution 8774 also required Cadungog to post a copy Republic At 9905, or “An Act Creating a Barangay to be Known as Barangay Banawa-Englis in the City of Cebu,” and to prepare the list of voters to be used in the plebiscite.

After the voting and subsequent canvass of votes, the board of canvassers will prepare the COCP, which should contain the number of precincts canvassed, registered voters, voters who actually voted, and that of the affirmative and negative votes.

The COCP should also state “whether or not the affirmative or negatives votes constitute a majority of the votes cast.”

Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district), who authored RA 9905, said that since the Omnibus Election Code applies, the gun ban and liquor ban will apply during the plebiscite in Guadalupe.

He urged those who are for or against the creation of a new barangay to avoid employing dirty tactics, and said that they must let the people decide freely whether or not they support the clamor of the Banawa and Englis residents.

“Wala la’y pugsanay (Let’s give them the freedom to decide),” the congressman said.

Deputy Executive Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. from Comelec Manila and Comelec 7 Regional Election Director Ray Rene Buac were tasked to supervise the conduct of the plebiscite.