Cityhood

R.A. No. 8488 “ An Act converting the Municipality of Victorias, Negros Occidental, into a component City, to be known as the City of Victorias.”

To live in a wholesome  and progressive place like a city is a life-long dream of the good people of the municipality of Victorias.  This dream is their ultimate aspiration as a people striving hard to be abundantly responsive to serve their needs.

It was sometime in the 70’s, that mayor Jesus Fermin requested the late cong. Armando Gustilo of the 1st district of Negros Occidental to sponsor a bill in the House of Representatives to convert the municipality of Victorias into a component city of Negros Occidental.  The cityhood bill (HB No. 4044) filed by Cong. Gustilo in the house was given its untimely demise when Proclamation Order No. 1081 was declared by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos on September 21, 1972 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law.

It was then that desire to become a city was put into rest.  Nobody dared to revive the cityhood bid for almost 20 years after that dreadful day when martial rule was implemented in the country. Victorias as a progressive municipality continued to struggle to keep its pace towards progress and stability.  Clamour by the people for cityhood was heard every now and then but nobody seemed to take the initiative to make the first step.

Twenty (20) years after, the 1992 synchoronized election resulted in the assumption into office of Mayor Severo A. Palanca as Municipal Mayor. A change in the reign of administration in the municipality was faced with economic and political turmoil.  Odds were great, the Palanca administration was faced with challenges left and right.

Upon Palanca’s assumption of office in 1992, the town’s local income was P10,173,029.75, good but not substantive for the implementation of basic projects.  With skillful managing of resources, Mayor Palanca reviewed local revenue tax ordinances, launched tax information drives that encourage the people to pay the correct taxes as he implemented meaningful projects.  As of 1997, the town local income from taxes was P 22,664,429.08.  It was then that Mayor Palanca thought of “How about changing the town into a City.”

After the March 19 public hearing, the cityhood bill of Victorias suffered delays due to reasons which were beyond the control of the local government unit of Victorias.  One of which was the financial crisis of Victorias Milling Company.  But Mayor Palanca refused to give up what he had started.  With his sustaining efforts and positive actions and plans, he kept on following the bid for cityhood in Manila.  He was so determined to pursue what he had started for he believed that Victtorias is ripe and ready to become a city based on the requirements as presented to the approving body of the legislative branch of the government.

At last, efforts of Mayor Palanca paid off, the cityhood bill was finaly approved in the house of representatives on Dec. 9, 1997 and in the Senate on February 5, 1998.  One week later, February 11, 1998, the cityhood of Victorias was signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos in Malacañang Palace, Manila, assigning REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8488 “AN ACT CONVERTING MUNICPALITY OF VICTORIAS, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL INTO A COMPONENT CITY, TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF VICTORIAS.” Back home, people received the good news in jubilation.  They were euphoric.  Caravans were instantly organized, church bells rung for almost an hour.  Everybody were overjoyed with the news from Manila.  The signing of RA No. 8488 as witnessed by Mayor Severo A. Palanca, SBM Francis Frederick Palanca, SBM Jose Alvior Jr., SBM Salvador Dignadice, Mr. Rodrigo Locsin, Mr. Rodolfo Tribaco, Mrs. Nilda Generoso, Engr. Marilou Soriano, Ms. Armen L. Tabligan and Mr. Ferdinand Palanca.

To start the campaign period, a caravan was organized on March 1 participated in by the municipal officials and employees led by Mayor Palanca, barangay officials and constituents.  NGOs, teachers and other concerned Victoriahanons.

Speaker bureaus and teams were organized to conduct pulong-pulong municipality-wide covering all of the 26 barangays.  The teams were composed of municipal officials and department heads led by Mayor Palanca, DECS, NGOs and other concerned Victoriahanons.

The CIDA-LGSP grantees of the muncipality on a scholarship program of the LGU at UNO-R for Master in Public Administration with concentration on Local Government Administration, conducted thier own pulong-pulong to help the LGU in the plebiscite campaign which covered Barangay I, III, IV, VI, VII and XIII.  The CIDA-LGSP grantees of the City of Victorias are Resha Aranaez, Faith Bacucang, Nemia Baliguat, Edna Pamine and Rafael Valderrama.

Presidential Proclamation Order NO. 1180 dated March 19, 1998 declared March 20 and 21 special non-working holidays in Victorias in order that the people can prepare for the March 21 plebiscite.  On this, it is noteworthy to mention that the Provincial Government is strongly supporting the Cityhood of Victorias by allocationg P750,000.00 for the plebiscite.

The red-letter day came, March 21 plebiscite, one hundred ninety seven (197) precincts opened at 7:00 a.m. to accept voters until 3:00 p.m. It was a long day of waiting, until the final canvassing of ballots begun at the municipal gymnasium. Provincial COMELEC Officers came to assist the canvassing.  Atty. Pio Jose Juson, COMELEC Assistant Executive Director for Operations, came to supervise. The results of the plebiscite were canvassed by the Plebiscite Board of Canvasser composed of Mrs. Luz Hilario, Victorias COMELEC  Officer, Mrs. Nilda Generos, City Treasurer and Mr. Felix Guelos, DECS Supervisor.

The final result of the plebiscite was 45% voters turn-out or a total of 17, 884 votes out of 39,992 registered voters; 15,988 or 89.38% voted “YES” and 1,899 or 10.63% voted “NO”.  The people approved very convincingly the cityhood of Victorias and COMELEC Officer, Mrs. Luz Hilario, made the proclamation before a euphoric and jubilant crowd of more than 3,000 people followed by the blaring of horns, ringing of church and display of fireworks which added glitter to the momentous proclamation.

Indeed, the turning of Victorias into an economic center that qualified the town for cityhood was once great achievement of Mayor Palanca: but perhaps, the greatest achievement of this visionary man was when he moved mountains, suffered sleepless nights and exhausting days, bravely facing the ridicule and insults thrown at him by some people, just to make this northern town into what it is today – – the 9th component city of Negros Occidental.  It is hard to imagine how else Mayor Palanca may excel this performance.  But as everybody knows, the mayor is always at his best when the odds are great.

It may have taken us 2 years, 2 moths and 28 days of anxiety, agony and pain to realize our dream for cityhood, but all our sacrfices ultimately paid off.

Source: Victorias News, Vol. I, No. 1, dtd. 5/31/98