HISTORY

 

In the later years of the Spanish regime, the towns of Rizal, Sibutad and La Libertad were still part and parcel of then town of Dapitan where Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines National Hero, was exiled for four (4) years from 1892 to 1896. Sometime in 1934, The sitio of Tuayon, barrio of Dampalan, town of Dapitan, province  of Zamboanga, island of Mindanao was already known and the name  “Tuayon” was indicated in an existing map. Its topography is situated on a plateau with low, flat and wet lands which early settlers were the mountain people belonging to the Subanon tribe. Considering that most of the area became watery during rainy seasons, the aborigines called the locality as “Tuayon”  which means “Gabasa” in Visayan dialect. 

By destiny, Luis Somes Sulit, the municipal Treasurer of Dapitan, was able to buy a parcel of land from Bancelana Subano at sitio Tuayon on July 6, 1936. Perhaps, as his legacies to develop and to improve the place, he initiated a move in the municipal council to change the sitio to a barrio and the name of Tuayon to La Libertad and it was approved. Tehreafter, the barrio of La Libertad was recognized as part of Dapitan  town, province of Zamboanga. Knowing that education is a vital tool for developing the life and livelihood of the residents whose children shall be provided the opportunity for a better future, he donated  about 1.6000 hectares of his property and persuaded an adjacent neighbor, Tomas Saguin who was a pioneer farmer from Dapitan town, to donate also 0.4000 hectare of his land, in order to meet the required 2.000 hectares of standard school site. In consequence of these donations, the authorities concerned granted the opening of the first Grade class in school,year 1941 – 1942 at the unoccupied farmhouse  owned by Anonio Cabilin near the school site with assignment of  Catalino Jalamana as the teacher. 

Unfortunately, World War II broke out on December 8, 1941, which caused the disruption of peace and order worldwide including the closure of classes in all levels. But in spite of chaotic and dangerous four (4) years of war, the inhabitants, particularly in the barrio of La Libertad and vicinity, continued to work and cultivate their lands in whatever conditions, in order to live and survive. When the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on August 6, and 9, 1945, respectively and followed by the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945, the state of normalcy, peace and order was regained because the global war finally ended. 

At peacetime,. all the barrios of then town of Dapitan became progressivewith increase population. Thus, businesses and agricultural endeavors flourished by leaps and bounds. As the economic status boomed, the people of the barrios of Maniway, New Tolon, Mapang, LaLibertd and surrounding places clamored for political independence from the mother town of Dapitan. Eventually, on January 1, 1951, the municipality of Rizal was born including the barrio of La Libertad and her neighboring barrios with the appointment of Plaridel V. Medija as the mayor. After 8 years, more or less, La Libertad acquired her juridical personality on may 7, 1959 by virtue of Republic Act No. 2192 which was authored by Congressman Alberto Q. Ubay from the mother town of Rizal with  10 original barrios, namely: Poblacion (La Libertad before), El Paraiso, Singaran, Mauswagon, New Carcar, La Union, La Victoria, San Jose, Mercedes, and New Bataan. Today, she has a total  of 13 baranagays with the addition of  3 newly created barangays of new Argao, Sta. Catalina, and Sta. Cruz from El Paraiso, La  Victoria and New Carcar respectively. As per record, her official governance began on September 1, 1959 with the appointment of Laertes Z. Sulit, Sr. as municipal mayor and acted the same until December 31, 1959. Said historic date is presently observed as “Araw Ng La Libertad”. 

During the first local elections on November 9, 1959, Ernesto D. Magsayo was chosen mayor and assumed office from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1963. Then, the second political exercise occurred on November 11, 1963 with Laertes Z. Sulit, as the duly elected mayor and served from January 1, 1964  to December 31, 1967. He was re-elected successively for three times on November 13, 1967, November 8, 1971 and on May 12, 1980. His total length of unbroken service from January 1, 1964 to his untimely death on June 16, 1985 was more than 21 years, including the martial law era. By the law of succession, Vice Mayor Jesus C. Sarenas, Sr. took over as the chief executive from June 17, 1985 to April 20, 1986. 

Soon after the snap election for President and Vice President on February 2, 1986 was established, the national administration changed from Marcos to Aquino as well as city, provincial and municipal leaderships. For La Libertad, Engr. Manuel “Noli” C. Sulit was appointed OIC mayor effective April 21, 1986. He was duly elected on January 18, 1988 and in the next elections he was re-elected twice on May 11, 1995. On May 11, 1998 syb=nchronized elections, Engr. Sulit was disqualified, because of the constitutional  mandate of 3-term limit. Instead, retired teacher Leandro Z. Sulit ran and won. He assumed office from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001. Being aged at 74 years old, Sir Andring refrained to run for re-electeion. For an alternate candidate, some friends  persuaded Noli Sulit to run again on May 14, 2001 and won. Now, he is the incumbent municipal Mayor effective July 1, 2001. 

Today, La Libertad, a fifth class municipality, is on her 42nd founding anniversary with an area of 5,504 hectares and a population of 7,691 souls in the 1998 census. Her seat of government is at barangay Poblacion which is geographically surrounded by 12 barangays. They are interconnected by graveled and partly cemented roads with submarine bridges of Dapitan (2), Sebaca (1), Balobohan (2), and Potungan (1)  rivers which make vehicular transportation available throughout and adjacent towns of Rizal, Piñan, Muita, Polanco and the twin cities of Dapitan and Dipolog. Operation and maintenance for local functions depend on  the P15,166,612.00 Annual Budget for year 2001. 

La Libertad is predominantly  an agricultural town which major product is copra has a spacious semi-permanent municipal hall where all local and devolved offices are located. Besides, provincial, regional and national offices for the Philippine National Police , Department of Interior and Local Government, Election Registrar, Postal Services, Department of Transportation and Communication and the Bureau of Internal Revenue are also accommodated. Other landmarks are Pres. Diosdado Macapagal Park, Mini cultural and Sports Center, Municipal Public Market, Central School, District Office with 10 elementary schools, National High School, Churches of the Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Seventh Day Adventist, Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of the Body of Christ and the Happy Church. Most if not all of the barangays have their own offices, multi-purpose halls, basketball courts, day care centers, and solar driers. Potable water facilities are adequately maintained by springs and well-cared dug  wells ever since, but lately there are undergoing waterworks systems which are functioning in the barangays. 

Through Republic Act No. 7586, known as the National Integrated Areas system (NIPAS) of 1992, Mt. Malindang National Park became  the initial component to the system. As such, DENR in its Special Order No. 90-1292 includes the municipalities of Tambulig, Josefina of Zamboanga del Sur, Sergio Osmeña, Mutia and La Libertad of Zamboanga del Norte in the Mt. Malindang  Range National Park which with the province of Misamis Occidental shall have representatives in the Mt. Malindang Protected Area Management  Board (PAMB). These information  shall make   La Libertad  municipality as one of the national protected areas, which its use and enjoyment must be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development. Dapitan river at barangay El Paraiso is a potential source of mini-hydrpelectric power and some mountainous barangays have mineral deposits waiting for enterprising prospectors.