Volume14 / No. 18                                                                                                       September 30, 2014
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Ecija-wide plebiscite for Cabanatuan HUC status set for November 8

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has scheduled for November 8 the province-wide plebiscite for the ratification of the presidential proclamation declaring Cabanatuan a highly urbanized city (HUC).

Cabanatuan City Election Officer Leonardo Navarro said the Supreme Court ordered the COMELEC to hold the plebiscite with the 1,3609,508 registered voters in Nueva Ecija participating.

The HUC plebiscite had been postponed twice after Gov. Aurelio Umali questioned in the Supreme Court the order limiting the political exercise to Cabanatuan City voters.

The Supreme Court sided with Umali's claim that other cities and towns in the province will be affected by the HUC conversion and should be allowed to participate in the plebiscite.

"We are not saying the plebiscite should not be allowed. What we are saying is who should be allowed to vote," Umali said.

He said the existing jurisprudence limiting the plebiscite to areas to be partitioned is "absurd and illogical", allowing only the secessionists to vote for secession and make a demand against the wishes of the majority.

The Department of Budget and Management has ruled that there will be a substantial decrease in the land area of the province once Cabanatuan turns into an HUC.

For his part, Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara said it will be the second attempt by Cabanatuan to attain HUC status after city voters turned down the proposal in 1995 because of strong political opposition.

He said he retried to revive the issue after he was re-elected last year but the COMELEC deferred action on the matter because of the barangay elections. ###

Aliaga mayor unseated

Aliaga Mayor Elizabeth Vargas was unseated by a Cabanatuan City court last September 22.

Despite Vargas' refusal to vacate the position, she was replaced by Reynaldo Ordanes, her rival in the 2013 elections, after a court sheriff served the order issued by Judge Virgilio Caballero.

Vargas, a four-term mayor and wife of former Mayor Marcial Vargas, was proclaimed winner by the municipal board of canvassers after beating Ordanes by 654 votes.

Ordanes then filed an election protest with the court which voided 72 of Vargas' votes last May.

It ruled that three of Ordanes' votes rejected by the precinct count optical scan machine were valid, reducing Vargas' votes to 11,405 while increasing Ordanes' votes to 11,416.

A writ of execution for the ouster of Vargas was issued by the court last June 19, but was withheld last July 15 when the COMELEC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) for 60 days. With the expiration of the TRO last September 16, the court issued another order the following day implementing the writ, saying that Vargas had not shown any evidence to defend her position.

With Vargas refusing to vacate the town hall, Ordanes said he will temporarily hold office in his house.

He appealed to Vargas to step down and said he will await the intervention of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. ###

200,000 Ecijanos may not be able to vote in 2016

A total of 213,141 registered voters in Nueva Ecija with incomplete or no biometric data could lose their right to vote in the 2016 elections.

Provincial Election Supervisor Panfilo Doctor, Jr. said the number makes up about 15 percent of the 1.3 million voters in the province.

Among the voters with incomplete or no biometric data, 63,116 are from Cabanatuan City; 21,541 from San Jose City; 15,418 from Talavera; 11,188 from Guimba; and 10,100 from Gapan City.

The mandatory biometric registration of voters is contained in Republic Act 10367 signed by President in February 2013. ###

Provincial jail warden's killer identified

A hired gunman who was killed in an encounter with policemen in Aliaga last September 9  has been identified as the one who shot dead Provincial Warden Enrico Campos last month.

Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, said Renato Galang alias Berdugo was identified by witnesses as the gunman.

Galang was said to be the leader of a gang of hired killers also involved in robberies and car thefts. He was linked to the killing of PO2 Marcos Lopez and PO2 Rolando Basmayor, Jr. 

Nieves said jail guard Alfredo Donato, Sr. and detainees Romeo dela Cruiz and Leonilo Sarmiento identified Galang as the killer. The motive was the jail reforms implemented by the warden.

Nieves said Galang threatened Donato and the warden when they posted his photo as the primary suspect in the killing of PO2 Lopez.

Gov. Aurelio Umali had offered a P1 million reward for the capture of Campos' killer and gave police until September 13 to solve the case.

He said the killings will not stop with the death of Galang and the police should dig deeper to find out who was paying the hired killer.

"May mga dating pulitiko na may hawak na mga gun-for-fire. Dapat imbestigahan din," Umali said. ###

Police office launches 'Bless Our Cops'

The director of the Nueva Ecija Police Provincial Office has launched an advocacy called "Bless Our Cops" or BOC following controversies involving scalawag policemen.

Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieve said BOC aims to enlighten and motivate the command, group, staff, officers and personnel on their purpose as model officers and public servants.

He said the advocacy aims to bring God to every policeman and help bring about a God-centered, service-oriented and family-based Philippine National Police. ###

Cabanatuan has new police chief

Cabanatuan City has a new police chief -- Supt. Joselito Villarosa, former head of the Nueva Ecija Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

He replaced Supt. Pedro Soliba who had held the position for one year.

Villarosa is a son of a Makati City judge. He was deputy executive officer of the anti-carjacking Task Force Limbas. He served as police chief of San Leonardo and Jaen, intelligence officer of the Central Luzon Police and chief of the Highway Patrol Group in Pampanga.

Villarosa has a 10-point agenda aimed at maintaining the status of the Cabanatuan police station as one of the country's best. ###

Japan funds P29.8-M projects in Zaragoza

The Department of Agrarian Reform and the municipal government of Zaragoza launched P29.89 million worth of projects funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The projects cover a farm-to-market road in Barangays Santa Lucia Young and Old, potable water system in Santa Lucia Old and the repair of day care centers in all 19 barangays.

The project launching was led by DAR Regional director Arnel Dizon, together with Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) 2 Romeo Cordero, PARO 1 Jocelyn Ramones and Mayor Lovella Belmonte-Espiritu.

Belmonte-Espiritu said the farm-to-market road will enable around 3,700 residents to easily transport their produce.

The town spent P2.5 million to build an elevated water tank for 216 households in Santa Lucia Old and P17 million for four other road projects spanning 15 kilometers. ###

Pusher killed in Peņaranda

An alleged notorious drug pusher from Gapan City was killed during a running fire fight with operatives from the Peņaranda police and the Public Safety Company (PPSC) of the Nueva Ecija Police Provincial Office in Barangay Poblacion at around 5:00 p.m. last September 12.

Supt. Ricardo Villanueva, PPSC commander, identified the fatality as Ronald Balagtas of Purok Riverside, Barangay San Vicente, Gapan City.

Concerned citizens informed the police that a certain alias Manok was selling shabu in Barangay Poblacion, prompting a team of policemen to launch an operation to arrest the suspect.

Villanueva said the suspect, upon seeing the approaching police team, immediately fled aboard his motorcycle, firing a gun at the policemen chasing him. ###

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