Senate committees hear Bukidnon 4th district bill

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/16 August) The Senate’s Committees on Local Government and Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws are holding a joint public hearing Thursday to deliberate on House Bill 5236 or the proposed “Act Reaportioning the Province of Bukidnon into four legislative districts.”

In a letter on August 6, Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr, who chairs the committee on local government, asked the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to submit position papers on the bill.

Board members Nemesio Beltran Jr and Jay Albarece, both lawyers, are attending the hearing as resource persons, the latter told Bukidnon News Wednesday.

Lawyer Apollo Maguale, secretary of the provincial board, also joined the board’s representatives.

Kalilangan mayor Myrna Suyao, president of the Bukidnon chapter of the League of Mayors in the Philippines is also expected to appear.

According to the Senate’s website, the joint committee hearing also will tackle the reapportitioning of the Province of Maguindanao into three legislative districts and Zamboanga del Sur into three legislative districts.

The House of Representatives has approved on third reading the, according to Congress’s online database in its website in October 2011.

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 Bukidnon Rep. Jose Ma. Zubiri III (3rd Dist.), and co-authored by Representatives Florencio T. Flores Jr. (2nd Dist.) and Jesus Emmanuel Paras (1st Dist.).

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 Nemesio Beltran Jr. said earlier the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has 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.

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.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has pushed for the creation of additional RTCs in the province because of its impact on the administration of justice in Bukidnon.

Isidro Caracol, IBP Bukidnon chapter president, said earlier the province needs additional five judges for the municipal circuit trial courts, at least one additional regional trial court (RTC) each in Malaybalay and Valencia, and five other RTCs in the rest of Bukidnon.

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.

She said that with this number criminal cases it will take an average of five years to resolve and civil cases, especially land disputes, 15 to 20 years. (Walter I. Balane / Bukidnon News)