‘UNITY IN DIVISION’: Splitting Iloilo City into two districts to end political rivalry

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The proposal to divide Iloilo City into two legislative districts is seen as a solution to the ongoing tension between two major political parties in the city ahead of the 2025 midterm elections.

Former Ilonggo Senator Franklin Drilon stated that the political rivalry between the Team Uswag of City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Team Gugma of lone district Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda will be settled if Iloilo City is divided into two districts.

“I support that, but I hope our leaders in Congress can approve this as soon as possible because, let’s face it, this is the solution to the brewing political contest here,” he said in an interview on Sunday, June 23.

Drilon highlighted the recent fallout between Treñas and Baronda after two terms as political allies.

The two have parted ways after the mayor endorsed his daughter and executive assistant, Raisa Treñas-Chu, to run for congress in the midterm elections.

Drilon further emphasized that splitting Iloilo City would “avoid political contests without prejudicing public interests.”

He added that the move will allow the local government to concentrate on their districts by bringing more programs and infrastructure projects.

He also pointed out that Iloilo City meets the qualifications for division based on population, land area, income, and other factors.

Meanwhile, Treñas also welcomed Drilon’s push, saying, “I am in favor of that. As a matter of fact, I pushed for that. If we are divided, that would be a relief.”

Treñas noted that he has no issue with the division, emphasizing that Baronda is already organizing her own group for the midterm elections.

“If the city does get divided, and Jamjam is organizing her own district, that’s fine. But as it stands now, the city isn’t divided yet, and she’s already organizing. It’s not good that she’s organizing to go against me,” he added.

Drilon appealed to House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senate President Chiz Escudero to approve the city’s division.

The former senator is, however, uncertain if House Bill (HB) 6817 or an “Act Reapportioning the Lone Legislative District of the City of Iloilo” will be passed before the midterm elections.

HB 6817, refiled by Baronda in January 2023, is still pending with the Committee on Local Government.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Baronda said the aim of the legislative apportionment is to equalize population and voting power among districts.

“With the subsequent passage of time, the fast-paced development of Iloilo City, and the increasing population, there is a concomitant need to ensure equal representation and empowerment of people,” she added.

Under the bill, Jaro, La Paz, and Mandurriao will form one congressional district, while City Proper, Molo, Arevalo, and Lapuz will make up the other.

The move to reapportion the city’s legislative district began during the terms of former congressmen Raul Gonzalez Jr. (HB 4256 in the 14th Congress) and Jerry Treñas (HB 12919 and 3474 in the 15th and 17th Congresses).

In the 18th Congress in 2021, HB 3074, authored by Baronda, was approved by the House of Representatives but stalled at the committee level due to failing to meet the population requirement of 250,000 per district.

Article VI Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution requires “a city to have a minimum population of 250,000 to be entitled to a representative, it does not have to increase its population by another 250,000 to be entitled to an additional district.”

A 2022 census by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that Iloilo City has a total population of 457,626.

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