Negros Oriental and its politicians

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The killing of Governor Roel Degamo and eight others in Pamplona has brought the nation's attention to Negros. Negros Oriental has been considered as the less-wealthy sister province of Negros Occidental, just like Southern Leyte being called the poorer sister of Leyte. Well, if I may say so, with due respect to our governor and vice governor, southern Cebu can also be classified as the less-privileged sister of both northern and central Cebu. This could be the reason why the governor always insists that there is only One Cebu.

Negros Oriental is much smaller and less populated than Occidental. Their areas are 7,802.54 square kilometers for Occidental and only 5,385.53 square kilometers for Oriental. The population of Occidental is 2,497,261 with a density of 320 people per square kilometer. The population of Oriental is only 1,354,995 or a density of 250 people per square kilometers. Bacolod is an independent chartered city with an area of 162.67 square kilometers and a population of 561,875 and a population density of 3,500 per square kilometer. Negros Oriental has six cities, Dumaguete the capital, and Bais, Bayawan, Canlaon, Guihulngan, and Tanjay. It has the following municipalities: Amlan, Ayungon, Bacong, Bindoy, Dauin, Jimalalud, La Libertad, Mabinay, Manjuyod, Pamplona, San Jose, Santa Catalina, Siaton, Sibulan, Tayasan, Valencia, Vallehermoso, and Zamboanguita. All in all, the province has three congressional districts and 557 barangays.

After the assassination of Governor Roel Degamo, Vice Governor Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes, Nacionalista, took over. The first board member, Chacho Sagarbarria, NPC, is the new vice governor. The first congressional district is the biggest in area, but with the smallest population among the three congressional districts, covering the cities of Canlaon and Guihulngan and the towns of Ayungon, Bindoy, Jimalalud, La Libertad, Manjuyod, Tayasan, and Vallehermoso. It has a total population of 445,970 as of 2020. Its incumbent representative is Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichiong from 2016 of the 17th Congress until 2025 of the 19th Congress. From 1987 to 2004, this district was represented by Jerome Paras of Guihulngan who had six consecutive terms. The incumbent represented the district from 2007 to 2013 in the 14th and 15th Congress. Emmanuel Iway had only one term from 2013 to 2016 in 16th Congress.

The second district is the smallest in area but the one with the highest population and includes Dumaguete City. It also has cities Bais and Tanjay and the towns of Amlan, Mabinay, Pamplona, San Jose, and Sibulan. It has a population of 535,632. Its incumbent congressman is Manuel Sagarbarria who is on his third term. He was elected in 2016 in the 17th Congress, reelected in 2019 in the 18th Congress, and in 2022 in the 19th Congress until 2025. This district used to be represented by George Arnaiz for three terms, including the 14th Congress, 15th Congress, and the 16th Congress. Emilio Macias II also represented this district in the 11th, 12th and 13th Congress from 1998 to 2007. Miguel Romero was the elected representative for the 8th, 9th, and 10th Congress from 1987 to 1988.

The third district comprises the lone city of Bayawan and the towns of Bacong, Basay, Dauin, Santa Catalina, Valencia, and Zamboanguita, with a total population of 451,388. Its congressman is the well-known Arnulfo A. Teves, Jr., also on his third term. He represented this district in 17th, 18th, and now the 19th Congress and his term will expire in 2025. This district used to be represented by his brother Pryde Henry Teves in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Congress from 2007 to 2016. It was Herminio Teves in the 11th, 12th, and 13th Congress from 1998 to 2007. Margarito B. Teves represented this district in the 8th, 9th, and 10th Congress from 1987 to 1998. This district is really controlled by the Teves political dynasty.

In Negros, if you are not a landed haciendero, and you dream of politics, forget it. But Roel Degamo reminded me of Nora Aunor's movie "Minsa'y May Isang Gamu-gamo". Once in a while a bright boy from out of nowhere would emerge to challenge the powers that be. And he is eliminated immediately as a threat to the royalty, a daring challenge to the status quo. Which reminds us of Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird". Degamo was not the first to have been killed because of politics. And the way I see it, he will not be the last, I hope that I am wrong. But my political crystal ball says otherwise. Kuyaw.


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