FAST BACKWARD: The dissolution of Roxas town

Unable to tolerate an idle mind, sometimes a free-wheeling incursion into long-forgotten archives once in a while yields nuggets of information that surprises a researcher. Recently, we stumbled on a presidential fiat creating the town named Roxas in Davao region. However, a review of the list of present-day municipalities in Davao region did not yield any name resembling in sound to that supposed township.

As a refresher, on Sept. 28, 1964, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Executive Order No. 102 “creating the municipality of Roxas in the Province of Davao” pursuant to Section 68 of the Revised Administrative Code. The new municipality was created based on House Bill 1965, which the House of Representatives approved.

The edict states the town of Roxas will comprise “the barrios and sitios of Coronon, Astorga, Darong, Inawayan, Sibulan, Pitogo, Idong, Cobingon, Sappot, Tubison, Bayongon, Landing, Tagulaya, Lomlom, Lower Quinocol, Upper Quinocol, Isom, Baracatan, Cabarisan and Lubo, all of the municipality of Sta. Cruz… with the seat of government at the barrio of Darong.”

The statute also delineates the boundary of the new town as follows: “Beginning from a point at the mouth of the Pilan Delok Creek at Davao Gulf; thence along the center of Pilan Delok Creek to its source; thence by a straight line to the summit of Mt. Lepantod; thence by a straight line to the summit of Mt. Apo.”

As a consequence, the jurisdiction of Santa Cruz, the mother town, was greatly reduced. On paper, Roxas is the third town to be carved out of Santa Cruz. On July 15, 1949, Padada was founded, and four days later, Digos (now a city) was established.

Moreover, the diktat also set conditions that the new town could only officially start after its officials, from the mayor down to the councilors, have been appointed and qualified, and the Secretary of Finance has certified the municipality has the financial capacity to pay for all the statutory obligations and ordinary essential services of a regular town.

Another condition embedded in the edict is the ability of the mother town to “maintain creditably its municipal government, meet all its statutory and contractual obligations and provide for the essential municipal services.”

Accordingly, the Roxas town was suspended because the edict creating it was questioned before the Supreme Court, which nullified its formation because this would mean the disintegration of the already decimated municipality of Santa Cruz. Sadly, we have yet to discover the actual ruling of the high tribunal on the matter.

The carving out of new territories from bigger municipalities was already practiced during Spanish colonial times. Boston, now a town of Davao Oriental, was once part of Cateel and was known to local residents as Dakung Banua (big town).

The towns of Monkayo and Compostela in Compostela Valley Province were once under Nabunturan, while New Bataan was carved out of Nabunturan and Compostela. Tagum City, on the other hand, was part of Panabo, while San Isidro, Davao del Norte, then part of barangay Sawata, was a piece of the larger territory of Asuncion town.

In missionary records, three towns which were part of the old Monkayo were reduced into small territories, namely: Jativa (now part of barangay Haguimitan), Gandia (now barangay Mamunga), and Gerona (now part of barangay Upper Ulip).

Tagum City, on the other hand, used to host the former barrios, now towns, of Mawab and Maco. Mabini, Compostela Valley, meanwhile, was carved out of Maco and Pantukan towns.

Two of the provinces of Davao region are daughters of larger territories. Davao Occidental was once part of Davao del Sur, while Compostela Valley was then under Davao del Norte. In recent times, two areas outside Davao jurisdiction were dissolved after their creation were questioned before the Supreme Court.

Created under Republic Act No. 4413, Rajah Buayan, formerly Gen. Santos when it was under the unified province of Cotabato, was converted into a city on Jan. 1, 1966, but only 7,488 voters participated in the plebiscite. Though the opposition lost, the result of the polls was questioned before the court given that the total number of voters cast was not even the majority of the actual registered voters in the locality.

As a result, the lower court issued an injunction on Jan. 4, 1966 restraining the city officers from assuming their positions, a decision the high tribunal unanimously upheld on Oct. 29, 1966.  Consequently, the law creating Rajah Buayan City was declared null and void.

On the other hand, the province of Shariff Kabunsuan was created under the Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 201, with nine original towns under it. Weeks before the plebiscite was held on Oct. 28, 2006, another town was added, and yet another municipality two months later. The result of the plebiscite overwhelmingly favored the creation of the new province.

But the Supreme Court overturned the creation on July 17, 2008, declaring the power to create provinces and cities exclusively belongs to Congress. Consequently, the high tribunal declared the power of the ARMM Regional Assembly to create provinces and cities as unconstitutional. The verdict was reaffirmed in January 2009.


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