CAGAYAN de Oro Mayor Vicente Y. Emano is pushing for the creation of new barangays and a third congressional district-a wide-ranging move that could redraw the city's geopolitical make-up.

Critics immediately pounced on the proposals-especially the creation of new barangays-suspecting that these are aimed at gaining electoral advantage for the administration.

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Mayor Emano signed Wednesday an executive order creating an ad hoc committee to "study, undertake documentation and propose measures for the creation of new barangays and third district legislative district of the city."

The committee chairman, Councilor Ramon G. Tabor, is given 60 days to submit a report to the mayor.

Councilor Roger G. Abaday, a member of the minority block, said he already knew what the report would say.

"The report would say there is sufficient basis to do all those things. Of course these things have already been planned," Councilor Abaday said. "This is intensive gerrymandering."

"The use of gerrymandering to control of strategic locations in the pursuit of political goals isn't new," Abaday said.

The opposition would only entertain the proposals if the administration "can present proof that there are no important concerns needing attention other than gerrymandering," he added.

"City Hall should attend first the needs of the city such as the traffic congestion and the worsening peace and order situation," Abaday said.

Tabor rejected Abaday's claims.

"The rapid population growth of the city necessitates the creation of the new barangays to facilitate better delivery of basic services to the people," he said.

"And when you have rapid population growth, you need another legislative district so that the populace can have equal representation in Congress. Another district means more benefits from the national government," he added.

Under the barangay partition plan, five barangays will be created out Lapasan, Carmen, Tablon and Kauswagan. Most of these barangays are bailiwicks of the opposition.

The proposed third district, meanwhile, will be carved out of downtown Barangays 1 to 40, Kauswagan, Bayabas, Bonbon, Consolacion, Puntod, and Macabalan.

To form a new legislative district, these areas must have a combined population of 250,000.

Tabor admitted, however, that the creation of a new district ultimate hinges on the city's population, which in 2007 stands at a total of 553,966, according to the National Statistics Office. (Nicole J. Managbanag)