‘No objection’ as Senate committees hear proposed additional district in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 August) – There has been no objection so far as two Senate committees – Local Government and Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws – heard today in a joint meeting House Bill 5236 or the proposed “Act Reapportioning the Province of Bukidnon into Four Legislative Districts,” board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. said via telephone.

Board member Jay Albarece, who joined Beltran in attending the hearing, said “(there were) no issues with the bill, all constitutional requirements (were complied with).”

Beltran, majority floor leader of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan – along with Rep. Jose Ma. Zubiri III (Bukidnon, 3rd Dist.), Albarece, board secretary Apollo Maguale, and Kalilangan town mayor Myrna Suyao (president of the Bukidnon chapter of the League of Mayors of the Philippines) – was asked to attend as resource speaker in the hearing

Beltran quoted Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Government, as saying that there is no more hindrance at the committee level of the Senate. Senator Manuel Villar, chair of the Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, joined Marcos in the hearing.

But Marcos clarified that the situation in plenary could be different.

Albarece said the National Statistics Office posed no objection on the requirement of 250,000 population in every district. The representative from the Commission on Elections, he added, also did not object, as well as the one from Department of Environment and Natural Resources Land Management Bureau on the requirement of “contiguous and adjacent” towns to form a district.

The joint hearing also tackled the proposed bills for additional districts in Maguindanao and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, according to the Senate’s schedule posted on its website.

Albarece said a mayor who belonged to the Mangudadatus expressed objection to the proposed district, citing no urgency yet for its creation and some problems with towns not being contiguous and the requirement on population.

Beltran said Marcos halted the hearing on the additional district for Maguindanao and set another schedule.

As of mid-afternoon when they left the Senate building, Albarece said the hearing for the similar proposed bill for Zamboanga del Sur was still ongoing.

In a letter on Aug. 6, Marcos asked the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan to submit position papers on the bill.

Last year, the House of Representatives has approved Bukidnon’s fourth district bill on third reading, according to Congress’s online database in its website.

House Bill No. 5236, or the “Act Reapportioning the Province of Bukidnon into Four Legislative Districts,” was approved Oct. 3 with 217-0-0 votes, barely a month after it was recommended for approval on Sept. 5 by the House Committee on Local Government as contained in its Committee Report No. 01402.

The refiled bill substituted House Bill No. 4382, which was filed last March by Zubiri and co-authored by Representatives Florencio T. Flores Jr. and Jesus Emmanuel Paras, of Bukidnon’s 2nd and 1st districts, respectively.

The bill took an urgent move in the House. It was first read in the plenary on Sept. 6 and was included in the official business on the same day. On Sept. 7, it was approved on second reading and then distributed on Sept. 13, with the explanatory note adopted as the measure’s sponsorship remarks.

Twenty days later, the House voted unanimously on the bill.

The bill would have to pass through scrutiny of the Senate and would need President Benigno Aquino III’s approval to be signed into law.

Zubiri, the principal author, filed on March 15 the bill reapportioning the first and second legislative districts of the province to create the fourth district.

The committee on local government heard the bill starting March 22.

As of the public consultation on January 6, the proposed district reconfigures the composition of the existing three districts. Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri explained then that the requirement of a 250,000 population for the creation of a new district is behind the reconfiguration.

Bukidnon, with a population of 1.19 million based on the 2007 census, has three legislative districts at present. The second district where the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia belong has a population of 474,943.

The move will put the two cities apart in separate districts.

Board member Beltran said earlier the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed a resolution last February incorporating the outcome of the consultation.

He said that the new district will be composed of Valencia City and the towns of Pangantucan and Kalilangan, which belong to the present first district.

The first district will be composed of the same towns in the north except Pangantucan and Kalilangan.

Only Valencia City will be taken out from the existing second district. This means Impasug-ong, proposed to be included in the first district, will stay with the district.

The third district will not be reconfigured.

According to Beltran, based on the 2010 census of population, each of the reconfigured three districts and the proposed new district will pass the population requirement for the creation of a new district.

Meanwhile, House Bill 5341 or the proposed act creating three additional Regional Trial Court branches in Bukidnon, remained stuck at the House. The bill proposed to station two new RTCs in Malaybalay and another in Valencia, amending Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as “The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended.”

Flores, author of the bill, filed it on Sept. 28 and was read on Oct. 4 at the House committee on justice. It is still pending at the committee, according to the House’s website as of Thursday.

RTC Branch 10 executive judge Josefina Gentiles-Bacal said in March the lack of court salas worsen the sorry state of the province’s justice system, in particular the delayed resolution of cases.

In October 2011, there are four RTCs in Bukidnon – three in Malaybalay and one in Manolo Fortich. Bacal said in March that RTC branches 8, 9 and 10, all based in Malaybalay, were handling between 2,600 and 2,700 active cases. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)