Redistricting

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Monday, April 21, 2014


CAN our local political leaders stop with the motherhood statements on creating two congressional districts in Bacolod City? For the life of me, why is having two Bacolod representatives an urgent agenda?

In 2008, then mayor and now Bacolod Lone District Rep. Evelio Leonardia issued Executive Order No. 21-2008 seeking the division of the Lone District of Bacolod into Bacolod North District and Bacolod South District.

The Bacolod North District was supposed to compose Barangays 1-12, 17-31, 41, Alangilan, Banago, Bata, Estefania, Granada, Mandalagan, Montevista, Villamonte and Vista Alegre while the Bacolod South District will consist of Barangays 13-16, 32-40, Alijis, Cabug, Felisa, Handumanan, Mansilingan, Pahanocoy, Punta-Taytay, Singcang, Sum-ag, Taculing and Tangub.

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Last year, the cat came out of the bag. Leonardia admitted that the push for the city redistricting hinged on getting more largesse from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf), or pork barrel, that multi-million peso discretionary fund that lawmakers reward themselves every year.

In an Oops moment, Leonardia said the real reason for redistricting our City of Smiles: to double the Pdaf allocation to the city.

The Supreme Court, however, declared Pdaf as unconstitutional. The High Court declared the Pdaf Article in 2013 General Appropriations Act and all similar provisions on the pork barrel system as illegal because it “allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions (thus violating) the principle of separation of powers.”

Leonardia has a change of heart after the SC decision. “Now that the Pdaf has been abolished, we need to rethink our position on splitting the city into two districts.”

So why is incumbent Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella pushing for the refiling of the bill under the sponsorship of – get this – Congressman Albee Benítez of the 3rd District of Negros Occidental? Puentevella admitted he met not with Bacolod Lone Representative Leonardia but with Benítez to talk of “compelling” points for the redistricting of Bacolod.

Google must have missed my Search, but it failed to find the “compelling reasons” why Bacoleños would need two congressional districts.

I was of course not born yesterday or last year. Obviously, the “compelling” reason before the 2013 local elections was to get more pork barrel. Another was to give erstwhile allies Leonardia and former congressman Anthony Gólez their own congressional turfs so they won’t compete against one another.

Well, House Bill 03692, which was passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives in December 8, 2010, failed to pass muster in the Senate. It went to congressional limbo.

Puentevella expressed his gratitude to former congressman Anthony Gólez for having the bill approved in Congress, which the mayor insist, will easily pass again in the current Congress, if refilled.

As expected, Leonardia opposes the redistricting plan he once supported. He said: “Pressing for two districts could only double government expenses for results that can be effectively delivered only by one congressman who works well and hard,” adding that “considering the new realities now, a single district could be more cost-efficient for the government.”

On this one, I can only agree with Rep. Leonardia. Why should taxpayers pay two more when it could get legislative benefits for the price of one?

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 21, 2014.

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