The Baguio City Council, during the regular session last Monday, passed a resolution requesting President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the ratified bill revising the Charter of the City of Baguio.
Voting for the passage of the resolution were Councilors Fred Bagbagen, Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Benny Bomogao, Arthur Allad-iw, Vladimir Cayabas, Mylen Victoria Yaranon, Michael lawana, Lilia Fariñas, and Francisco Roberto Ortega VI.
Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Philian Weygan-Allan, Elaine Sembrano, Joel Alangsab, and Levy Lloyd Orcales abstained.
As per information relayed to the council by Secretary Luzverfeda Pascual of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office last March 7, the enrolled bill would have already reached the office of the president on March 9 or 10, 2022. Upon receipt, the president is given 30 days to either approve the bill, veto it, or have it lapsed into law.
The city legislators asserted that the bill should be revised to address certain concerns which were previously raised during previous council sessions. They argued that the bill should be vetoed to give time for further study and to address these concerns.
Earlier, recommendations of the city council members on certain provisions of the bill were submitted to the technical working group for consideration. Thereafter, Cosalan and Bomogao were tasked by the city council to manifest these recommendations during a meeting with the senate committee.
Bomogao stressed that major recommendations of the city council were not considered such as the segregation of the 13 barangays within the John Hay Reservation as stipulated in the 19 conditionalities imposed by the city government to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA); and the revocation of the declaration of certain lands in the city as mineral lands which affect the application of titles at Atok Trail, Happy Hollow, Mines View, Pucsusan, Lucnab, Atok Trail, Kias, and Loakan-Apugan.
Allad-iw mentioned that the final version of the bill failed to recognize the function of the National Commission on Indigenous People in the issuance of ancestral land and domain titles. One of the earlier recommendations of the council was to include in the bill a provision acknowledging the Indigenous People’s Right Act of 1007 (RA No. 8371) as a basis for the issuance of ancestral land and domain titles within alienable and disposable lands in the city.
He also claimed that there were no “substantial consultations” with the people of Baguio City regarding the proposed revision of the city charter.
“The right to be consulted is every citizen’s constitutional right,” the councilor exclaimed.
Bagbagen reiterated that, per city council recommendation, the 19 conditionalities imposed by the city government in the formulation of the Master Development Plan for Camp John Hay as indicated in City Council Resolution 362-1994 should have been incorporated into the proposed revision of the city charter.
He highlighted two significant conditions stipulated in the resolution. These were the segregation of the 13 barangays within the Camp John Hay Reservation and the share of the city government in the gross income of the operations of BCDA within the zone.
Meanwhile, Cosalan said there were “injustices” written in the original city charter which the proposed revision needs to correct.
“We are now given the opportunity to correct these injustices. We shouldn’t be in a hurry to pass the proposed revision,” he expressed.
Cosalan questioned the discrepancy between the city charter and the Bases Conversion Development Act of 1992 (Republic Act No. 7277) in terms of the land area of Camp John Hay.
According to Cosalan, the city charter indicates that Camp John Hay has an area of 625.4105 hectares. Whereas under Section 7 of RA 7227, the area transferred to BCDA is only 570 hectares.
“I understand that the bill has gone through the process both in the congress and the senate. Much effort has been put into the crafting of the bill. But this is a matter of giving value to our constituents. What is more valuable? The resources spent or the future of the people of Baguio?” he stated.
The council members admitted that they should have been more active in lobbying for their recommendations during their meetings with Senator Francis Tolentino and Congressman Marquez Go. They recognized that they were not able to attend some of these meetings.
Tabanda pointed out that it might take again three years or more for the approval of the revision of the city charter if the bill gets vetoed. She reminded the council that one salient feature of the bill is the mandatory installation of an Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the local legislative department. To date, the City Government of Baguio has yet to install an IPMR in the city council.
In a meeting with the city council last Monday after the Flag Raising Ceremony, Congressman Marquez Go said separate legislation may be crafted to address some of these concerns raised by the councilors.
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖 𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙗𝙞𝙨𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙚
Cosalan argued that the Local Government Code of 1991 mandates the conduct of a plebiscite if there is “creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units (Section 10).”
The original city charter defined the geographical boundaries of Baguio City. However, Section 3 of the proposed revision of the city charter does not indicate the technical description of the city’s metes and bounds but instead states that “the City shall comprise [sic] the present territorial jurisdiction of the City.”
According to Cosalan, there were changes in the technical description of the metes and bounds of the city due to the territorial dispute between the City Government of Baguio and the Municipal Government of Tuba.
He asserted that these changes were “substantial” as it affects the people caught in the dispute between the two LGUs particularly the residents of Barangays Sto. Tomas, Dontogan, and Asin, thus, the need for a plebiscite.
Go disagreed with Cosalan’s assertion that the bill should be subjected to a plebiscite, claiming that the “alteration was not substantial.” He said the best course of action is to “sit down with the officials of Tuba and resolve the dispute.”
“It is not a question of whether they (affected residents) agree or disagree. It is not a question of whether they will participate in a plebiscite or not. It is a question of how we can protect them and ensure that we will have a win-win solution as far as the territorial boundaries are concerned,” Go stated. -Jordan G. Habbiling