Zubiri has filed House Bill 4834 creating a new province to be named Bukidnon del Sur, a move strongly opposed by Acosta.
A group called the Provincial Consultative Body of Indigenous Peoples passed a resolution supporting Zubiri’s bill. It claims to represent the seven tribes of Bukidnon and is headed by Lorenzo Dinlayan Jr., a son of former vice governor Lorenzo Dinlayan Sr.
The elder Dinlayan serves as consultant to Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., father of the congressman.
On the other hand, a group calling itself the Bukidnon Youth of the Seven Tribes distributed copies of a manifesto against the division of the province.
The group argued that Bukidnon was intended to be the “home of the nomadic, non-Christian tribes of Northern Mindanao.”
“Bukidnon has for many years enjoyed the benefit of a first class province. So why divide and create a 3rd class province?” the manifesto added.
The proposed province will comprise the towns of Maramag, Don Carlos, Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kibawe, Damulog, Quezon, Kadingilan, Pangantucan and Kalilangan.
Except for Pangantucan and Kalilangan, the proposed province covers the entire 3rd district.
During the four-hour debate, Acosta repeated his earlier accusation that Zubiri railroaded the passage of HB 4832 at the House of Representatives. He said the proponent exploited his six-month absence from the House on a fellowship abroad.
He further accused Zubiri of gerrymandering for not consulting him on the inclusion of Pangantucan and Kalilangan in “Bukidnon del Sur.”
HB 4832 has been referred to the Senate.
Zubiri vehemently denied railroading the process. He said discussions on the bill have been going on for at least two years, adding most mayors and other local officials have endorsed it.
He centered his argument for a new province on faster development and delivery of services. He claimed that the south or 3rd district has always lagged behind in terms of development.
Acosta countered there is nothing under the present setup that would prevent the 3rd district from progressing. He reiterated his view that an area’s development does not depend on the size but on systems and policies.
He also stressed that the Zubiris have been the representatives of the 3rd district since 1987 and that his colleague’s father is now the governor.
Governor Zubiri was congressman from 1987 to 1998. He ran and won as governor in 2001 and again in 2004. His son has been congressman of the district since 1998.
The debate took place at the Bukidnon State College gymnasium here. It was noticeable that most of the spectators were supporters of either Zubiri or Acosta coming from their respective districts. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)