Fate of new province in S. Mindanao hangs


DIGOS CITY—Will there be a fourth province in Southern Mindanao next year?

The answer to this question will be known after the October village and youth elections in Davao del Sur, which would coincide with a plebiscite on the fate of the proposed Davao Occidental.

Republic Act No. 10360, the law that created Davao Occidental, was signed by President Aquino on July 23.

The proposed province will have Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and Sarangani as component towns while Davao del Sur, the mother province, will be left with the towns of Malalag, Sulop, Padada, Hagonoy, Sta. Cruz, Bansalan, Matanao, Magsaysay and Kiblawan; and Digos City as component areas.

Bartolome Sinocruz, deputy executive director for operations of the Commission on Elections, said the plebiscite on the creation of Davao Occidental will be held on Oct. 28, simultaneous with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan 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,” he said.

Gov. Claude Bautista, whose family is seen to benefit from the division of the province into two, declined to comment on the plebiscite.

It was Bautista’s elder brother, second 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 the leadership of the province from the control of political families in the first district had twice failed.

The clan finally emerged victorious in the elections last May.

For some politicians in the first district, the division of Davao del Sur into two provinces would certainly end the political war between politicians from the two districts.

These included the Cagases and the Bautistas.

Heated 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 now Governor Bautista.

Bautista was running then against Douglas Cagas, who eventually became governor.

In succeeding elections, Bautista also failed to topple Cagas in what was described as a heated and bitter rematch.

In June, he finally became governor after defeating former Representative Marc Cagas, the former governor’s son. Eldie Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao

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