DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur—Will there be a new province in Mindanao next year?
The answer to this question will be determined after the barangay (village) elections in October, when 628,862 voters in Davao del Sur will vote for or against the creation of a new province to be called Davao Occidental.
Republic Act 10360, the law creating Davao Occidental subject to ratification in a plebiscite, was signed by President Benigno Aquino III on July 23.
The proposed province will have Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and Sarangani as component municipalities while Davao del Sur, from which the new province is to be carved out, will be left with the towns of Malalag, Sulop, Padada, Hagonoy, Sta. Cruz, Bansalan, Matanao, Magsaysay, Kiblawan and Digos City.
Bartolome Sinocruz, deputy executive director for operations of the Commission on Elections, said the plebiscite on the creation of Davao Occidental would be held on Oct. 28, simultaneously with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections.
“The people accredited to vote in the elections will be the same people that will participate in the plebiscite that will decide whether the creation of Davao Occidental is acceptable to Davao del Sur or not,” Sinocruz said.
Gov. Claude Bautista, whose family is seen benefiting from the division of the province into two, declined to comment on the conduct of the plebiscite.
It was Bautista’s elder brother, 2nd district Rep. Franklin Bautista, who vigorously pushed for the division of the province.
The Bautista family is prominent in the second district and their aim to wrest leadership of the province from the control of political families in the first district had failed twice before. It was only in last May’s elections that Governor Bautista finally won.
Some politicians see the division of Davao del Sur into two provinces as the end of bitter political warfare between rival families from the two districts who had been fighting for power in the past. These are primarily the Cagases and the Bautistas.
Former Davao del Sur vice governor Arsenio Latasa said one effect the division of the province would be the easing of political rivalries.
“It would do us good things,” said Latasa, a Bautista ally.
Digos City Vice Mayor Reynaldo Hermosisima said that the division of Davao del Sur “would certainly pave the way for the return of harmonious relationship between some politicians.”
Intense political rivalries had triggered election violence in the past. These included the 2007 fatal shooting of Malita mayoral candidate Isidro Sarmiento and his son, Danilo, allegedly by followers of Governor Bautista.
Bautista was running then against Douglas Cagas, who eventually became governor.
In the succeeding elections, Bautista also failed to topple Cagas in what was described as a heated and bitter rematch.
In June, he finally became provincial chief executive after defeating former Representative Marc Cagas, the former governor’s son.