Even before the fall of the Spaniards to the Americans on August 13, 1898, a Court of First Instance had already been established in Western Leyte. There was the Office of the “Promoter Fiscal” equivalent to the Provincial Fiscal and the Office of “Administrador de Hacienda” equivalent to the Provincial Treasurer. With the change of sovereign power the positions were abolished except the Fiscal’s who remained hearing cases from Palompon to Hinunangan. Because of the difficulty of transportation and managing the affairs of government in Tacloban, the division of Leyte into two provinces was thought to be the only solution. Prominent leaders of the West Coast rallied to the general movement of a Western Leyte.
In 1919, Representative Ciriaco K. Kangleon of Macrohon, representing the 2nd District from Inopacan to Cabalian from 1919-1922 presented the first bill for the division of Leyte but lost in the Senate by one vote.
In 1922, Assemblyman Tomas Oppus renewed the move by presenting House Bill No. 254 which became Act No. 3117 of the Philippine Legislature. According to the said law, occidental province would embrace the towns of Villaba to Hinunangan, inclusive. The law never became effective since the governor-general did not proclaim it. Then Act No. 3788 was passed redistricting Leyte province into five representative districts modifying the Division Law. Senator Ruperto Kangleon presented Senate Bill No. 2140 advocating the division of Leyte, but it was also shelved.
Then in 1957, Nicanor Espina Yñiguez, Jr., who defeated Representative Pajao in the congressional election, filed a bill in the house creating the Province of Southern Leyte. No longer the original Western Leyte of Occidental Leyte, but only the Third District of Leyte comprising the municipalities of Maasin to Hinunangan, as specified under Act 3788.
After various attempts to pass a law to divide the Leyte Island, House Bill No. 1318 proposed by Congressman Nicanor E. Yñiguez became Republic Act No.2227 and was signed into Law by President Carlos P. Garcia on May 22, 1959. The new province was inaugurated on July 1, 1960. Thus the Third District of Leyte became the province of Southern Leyte. Those present and witnessed to the signing were Congressman Yñiguez, Mayor Alfredo K. Bantug of Maasin, Atty. Manuel Enage, Sr., Erlinda Capili and Atty. Floro Kangleon, among others.
The first provincial leaders were: Hon. Alfredo K. Bantug, Governor, Hon. Graciano A. Capili, Vice Governor; Hon. Isabelo Kaindoy, Senior Board Member, and Hon. Generoso M. Herrera, Board Member.
On July 1, 1960, Southern Leyte was inaugurated as a province with sixteen (16) municipalities, 349 barangays and 4 islands: Panaon Island, Limasawa Island, San Pablo Island and San Pedro Island. It had a total population of 209,608 as of February 15, 1960 NSO Census of Population. The municipalities included: Maasin, as the capital town and the seat of the provincial government, Macrohon, Padre Burgos, Malitbog, Bontoc, Sogod, Libagon, Liloan, Pintuyan, San Francisco, St. Bernard, Cabalian (now San Juan), Anahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan and Silago.
Three more municipalities were created subsequently, namely: San Ricardo from Pintuyan, Tomas Oppus from Malitbog and Limasawa from Padre Burgos. Since then, Southern Leyte is composed of 1 congressional district, 1 city, 18 municipalities and 500 barangays with a total population of 399,137 in 2010.