THE March 13 plebiscite for the creation of Barangay Banawa-Englis will not push through.
Judge Gabriel Ingles of the Regional Trial Court branch 58 yesterday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 to “restrain” within 20 days from proceeding with the conduct of the plebiscite on Saturday.
“Foregoing considered, the petitioner has established that he will suffer an irreparable injury if the subject plebiscite will be allowed to proceed (as scheduled on March 13, 2010,” Ingles said in his two-page order.
Ingles found the petition of Labangon Barangay Councilor Victor Buendia to be “meritorious.”
Buendia’s lawyer Julius Ceasar Entise said he was glad for his client that Ingles ruled in their favor.
“At least, his (Buendia) rights are protected because holding the plebiscite would work injustice to my client,” said Entise.
Last Monday, Buendia, through Entise, filed a petition for prohibition with issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction with the trial court against Comelec 7.
Buendia, who is on his second term as barangay councilor of Labangon and a member of Rosalina Village Homeowners Association, stands to lose his residency and might even be disqualified as barangay councilor of Labangon if the village will become part of Barangay Banawa-Englis.
Concerned parties affected by the granting of a 20-day restraining order on the holding of a plebisite in Guadalupe, Cebu City said they will abide by the court’s decision.
Atty. Edwin Cadungog, south district elections officer, yesterday sent a report to the Commission on Elections (Comelec)-Manila about the court ruling.
He said he was instructed to immediately send the report, which included a copy of the court order, because the Comelec en banc will include it in its agenda for today.
The en banc, he said, would likely come up with a decision in response to the court order today or tomorrow.
It is he and Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. who were tasked to supposedly implement Republic Act 9905 or “An Act Creating a Barangay to be known as arangay Banawa-Englis in the City of Cebu.”
Cadungog said he will wait for instructions from the Comelec en banc, but will have to abide by the order of the court if no communication reaches him.
He acknowledged that the court was just concerned of the Rosalina residents who will be disenfranchised as voters if the plebiscite pushes through and the “yes” votes win, as it will pave the way for the creation of a barangay Banawa-Englis.
As stipulated under RA 9905, Rosalina Village is part of the new barangay. Its residents, including Buendia, however, are voters of Labangon.
United Banawa Englis Association Inc. (UBEAI) president Antonio Dangcalan, for his part, said they respect the decision of the court.
“Kung dili pa gyud imo, dili pa gyud (It’s not yet time). The plebiscite was already scheduled but all of a sudden, the date was changed. There’s nothing we could do except to follow the order because Buendia’s complaint was given merit,” Dangcalan said.
And while he admitted that they cannot help but feel bad about the development, they are willing to wait.
“Hulat lang mi. Nakahulat man gani mi og almost 20 years, kani pa bang 20 ra ka adlaw. Pero naa gihapon ang kahingawa (We’ll just wait. We already waited 20 years, what’s 20 days more?)” he said.
Guadalupe Barangay Captain Eugenio Faelnar, in a separate interview, also said that while the decision is disagreeable to him, as he always wanted the plebiscite to proceed, they will wait.
He and Guadalupe’s barangay officials are campaigning for residents to vote “no” during the plebiscite.
Opposition party Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug), however, are of the same position as the UBEAI members.
Businessman Jonathan Guardo, who is running for south district representative, said it is Kusug’s position to support the creation of more districts and barangays.
He said that aside from Guadalupe, other barangays should follow.
Ben Baculi, former Guadalupe barangay councilor and Kusug candidate for south district councilor, said there are also many in Guadalupe proper who favor the separation of Sitios Banawa and Guadalupe into a new barangay.
He said services, like education, already suffer because the barangay is too big.
Guardo, who will clash with Mayor Tomas Osmeña in the May elections, challenged him to come up with a definite stand on the plebiscite.
Osmeña and his allies have taken a hands-off policy on the issue, as they want to leave it to the Guadalupe residents.
“My stand is in favor of the people. So whatever they want, that is my stand. It’s not a technical issue, it’s a sentimental issue. That’s the way I see it. There should be a split but not necessarily two way. Maybe three, maybe four,” he told a press conference yesterday.
“That’s his (Guardo) problem if he doesn’t understand the issue. Why should I make a decision to satisfy Guardo? Dako iyang ulo. He’s got no influence at all in my decisions,” the mayor added.
This early, Buendia told Sun.Star that he ask for forgiveness from the Banawa and Englis residents affected by his petition.
He said that he just felt he had to act because their homes would be officially made part of Banawa-Englis instead of Labangon once the “yes” votes win.
He lamented the Labangong barangay council is supposedly the one asking the court for a restraining order, but colleagues did not act on his request.
President Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9905 or an Act Creating a Barangay to be known as Barangay Banawa-Englis, Cebu City last Jan. 7.
The act enumerates, among others, the puroks comprising Sitio Banawa. Under Section 1 of RA 9905, Rosalina Village in Barangay Labangon, where Buendia is residing, will be part of Sitio Banawa.
But the petitioner said that the inclusion of Rosalina Village as one of the puroks of Sitio Banawa “is indubitably a substantial alteration” of the boundary of Barangay Labangon.
In granting the petitioner’s application for a restraining order, Ingles cited the admission of Cadungog that some residents of Rosalina Village were allowed to register as voters of both Barangay Labangon and Barangay Guadalupe.
“This means that Rosalina Village can be made part of the new barangay of Banawa-Englis without a prior determination of whether it is part of Labangon or Guadalupe, and also disenfranchising, in effect, at least some of the qualified voters during the plebiscite,” said Ingles.
During the hearing yesterday, Cadungog admitted that there’s “something wrong” in the numbers of registered voters at Rosalina Village in Barangay Labangon since residents there were allowed to register as voters of Barangay Labangon or Barangay Guadalupe.
Cadungog confirmed that some residents of Rosalina Village in Barangay Labangon are registered voters in Barangay Guadalupe.
Ingles said that such procedure would give an impression that Comelec is not certain which particular barangay Rosalina Village belongs. “This matter needs to be resolved with finality in the main case,” the judge said.
Citing Section 10, Article 10 of the Constitution, Ingles said the law provides that “no…barangay may be created, or divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered except in accordance with the criteria established in local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”
Ingles also explained that a restraining order is generally regarded as an order “to maintain the subject controversy in status quo until the hearing of an application for a temporary injunction.”
The 20-day TRO is non-extendible, said Ingles.
The court set the next hearings on the application for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction on March 16, 19, 23 and 26 this year.