Even at the height of the religious Peñafrancia Traslacion last Friday, the battle for the hearts, minds, and political patronage of every Camarinesense rages on. Protagonists for and against the dicapitation and gerrymandering of the premier Bicol province found in the television screen a venue to air their arguments. It was a total disruption on the solemnity of the occasion. This was reported by one of our citizen journalist who surmised it was obvious, politicians are deeping into their pockets and of their supporters to pay for primetime rates.
The raging word war about HB 4820 which was passed by the Philippines house of representatives with an overwhelming vote of 229 against 1 is a continuing saga. Families are split on their support, the foremost of them are the Villafuertes- the young junior Luis Raymund “LRay” who is the governor of Camsur is fighting the split in tandem with the fifth district congressman Salvio Fortuno as an ally. Fortuno was the lone naye sayer during the house vote.
On the other side, the seasoned traditional politician of 3rd district, congressman Luis Villafuerte, Sr., even co-sponsored the bill together with erstwhile presidential son also 2nd district representative Diosdado Arroyo and Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., of the 1st district. Main proponent is house deputy speaker and 4rth district representative Arnulfo Fuentebella.
On the local heads of LGUs, supporters for the split claims 24 of the 35 mayors of CamSur to have expressed their support in the creation of the new province to be called Nueva Camarines. Many vice mayors and members of the sangguniang bayans have joined the band wagon even as they expressed more are sending feelers.
In a show of force, the old Villafuerte convened some 200 supporters at his LRV agro-industrial farm in San Bernardino, Calabanga. Congressmen Arroyo and Andaya conspicuously skipped the event but instead sent their own delegation.
Also present were Arnulfo Fuentebella, Jr, the mayor of Tigaon town, and Evelyn Fuentebella, mayor of Sagñay town (wife of congressman Fuentebella) and Iriga city Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmin. During that time, the younger Villafuerte was hosting the third international triathlon event of Ironman 70.3 at the Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC).
The Fuentebellas, the Villafuertes, the Alfelors and the Andayas have carved fiefdoms in the province. Very interesting that the Fuentebellas has been in the provincial politics for almost a century now. All these families (except the Andayas) at various times and terms had elected governors of CamSur from their ranks.
Fuentebella, Jr. said (the split will leave the mother province of) Camarines Sur a population of 892,203, would have an average annual income of P283.48 million while Nueva Camarines, with a population of 801,618, would have an income of P223.4 million. He added 2,531.60 sq km (will be retained) for Camarines Sur and (a bigger chunk of) 2,970 sq km for Nueva Caceres.
Meanwhile, the young Villafuerte has been doing rounds of multi-sectoral consultations. In one gathering he hinted that HB4820 “will sequester the regulatory task the Local Government Code has vested exclusively in the local government units of cities and municipalities.”
Compared to existing provincial LGUs the Nueva Camarines of HB4820 “will be empowered to collect fees on water consumption and billboard installations, reclassify or do zoning for city and municipal lands, meddle in traffic and parking operations, do the numbering of homes and commercial buildings, and even inspect the weighing scales used by business establishments,” Villafuerte disclosed.
Governor Villafuerte cautioned that the approved bill carries with it many legal infirmities, one of which will create administrative chaos and set off double taxation as both the provincial government and their respective municipal governments will be simultaneously performing the enumerated regulatory functions and thus collecting the same fees from their constituents.
HB 4820 will carve the province of Nueva Camarines comprising the present fourth district towns of Siruma, Caramoan, Lagonoy, Garchitorena, Presentacion, San Jose, Tigaon, Tinambac, Sagñay and Goa, including the fifth district towns of Nabua, Baao, Bula, Balatan, Buhi, Bato, and the component city of Iriga.
Also quite notable now, the national print media gets a good sprinkling of column inches of words from obviously paid wags (of columnists) posturing as giving out an informed opinion. But they can’t hide the obvious reason for their campaign. Money talks and provide pressure when it’s in the wallet.