Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dismembering Cebu

I put off voicing my thoughts on this matter because I thought wise minds will prevail. But the Provincial Board of Cebu has just passed a resolution in favor of the bills now in Congress to divide Cebu into three provinces. A favorable resolution by a Provincial Board is usually what Congress awaits before it acts on any bill affecting a certain province. The bills filed separately by three congressmen propose to break up Cebu into Northern, Western and Southern Cebu.

One of my favorite bloggers, MLQ 3, has already put forward his opinion on the matter sometime ago in his column in the PDI. We share the same line of thought that breaking up Cebu will not be good especially if we plan on pushing the federalization issue.

I am not a saint when it comes to a gerrymandering act. My father was once a beneficiary when Pres. Diosdado Macapagal carved out several new towns in Zamboanga del Sur through an executive order in the 1960s. Our old town of Dimataling was chopped into three municipalities. Cong Dadong appointed my father as Mayor of one of the new towns - Libertad. Father was even elected President of the New Town Mayors League.

When Marcos won the next election, the new towns were reverted to being barrios. Father did not join the exodus to the Marcos camp. A little while, he was killed in an off-election, but still politically related incident. No one was interested enough to lobby for a full township for the place and the dream eventually died. Many of the former new towns eventually became full-pledged towns through the sponsorship of the congressman of the province.

A few years ago Zamboanga del Sur itself was divided into two provinces bringing forth the new Zamboanga-Sibugay. The usual reason put forth for such division is to bring development to the area that is being neglected by leaders holed up in the far-away capital.

It was probably the same reason my father had in agreeing to be mayor of Libertad. The town center of Dimataling was very far. There was no other faster means of transportation than the horse. When we transact business in the poblacion, like getting our mails, we have to be on our way home by 3 in the afternoon so that we would be home by nightfall. So setting up a new town hall in our barangay would have brought government services nearer.

Perhaps this move of dividing up Cebu can be a wake-up call to the leadership to be more attentive to the needs of the communities far from the seat of the provincial government. And by the way, there is another place where I used to live that is going to be dismembered soon too. I spend two years as young teacher in Dinagat Island. Another bill is pending in Congress that will detach Dinagat from Surigao del Norte and turn it into a province.

Personally I do not like the idea. I felt bad when Zamboanga del Sur was made smaller when Zamboanga-Sibugay was born. I will feel the same about the breaking up of Cebu. Of course the final say will be from the people through a referendum in both Cebu and Surigao. Then we will know how the people feel.

Have they been neglected all these years? We will know by the way they vote.