May 20, 2024

The revised Baguio charter embodied under Republic Act 11689 needs total revision, not merely amendments, the city council maintained.

In their session on July 24, the city council members maintained their position against the law that revised Baguio’s charter.

This is despite the explanations of Rep. Mark Go that the concerns raised against RA 11689 are being addressed by the amendments he is introducing to the law.

Councilor Peter Fianza, whose committee was tasked to tackle the issues raised on the new Baguio charter, said there are several other concerns on the law that must be addressed.

“Based on our initial assessment from the discussions we collated, the revised charter has to be revised again, entirely. There are so many errors, including errors from the law, which the (new Baguio charter) was copied from,” Fianza said.

While the city council committed to Go that its members will give their suggestions on his amendatory bill, Fianza shared Councilor Jose Molintas’ view that doing so is tantamount to accepting the charter that they have been asking former President Rodrigo Duterte to veto.

“Coming up with suggestions will only put us in a position where we are admitting the validity of the law when in fact we are questioning it,” Molintas said.

Fianza said the new Baguio charter does not address the challenges faced by the city government such as issues that directly impact the city, but decisions have to be made by the national government through the regional offices.

He cited as an example the issue on the cutting of trees, where permits have to be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“We were given the opportunity to ask for more power and privileges in the revised charter. For instance, we could have obtained the power to cut our trees, instead of the DENR, but we did not,” Fianza said.

He also raised a provision in the new charter that makes it mandatory for indigenous peoples to participate in legislative bodies, which runs counter to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act that provides IPs may only send their mandatory representative to local councils if they so choose.

Fianza added the new charter should have also cured the provision in the IPRA that states the determination of land rights in Baguio should still be based on the city’s charter, which is by way of Townsite Sales Application (TSA).

“The new charter should resolve issues on ancestral lands and the TSA. The IPRA provided us an opportunity for application of ancestral lands but (is complicated) because of Section 78,” he said.

“There are a lot of important matters that could have been looked into. If we give our suggestions to the new charter, it will simply be amendments and correcting errors and not improving on what we have or where we are now,” Molintas added.

The council was supposed to give its suggestions to the amendatory bill to the new charter in time for the opening of Congress’ session on July 24, but decided to task the committee on laws instead to again collate the suggestions and proposals to the charter.

Go earlier said the issues that were first raised by the city council have been take into consideration and are addressed in the amendatory bill his office has crafted. – Jane B. Cadalig