Asserting the revised charter of Baguio is working against, not for the benefit of the city and its people, the city council on Aug. 14 voted to have the charter be declared void by the Supreme Court.
The council’s move was prompted by the update of City Legal Officer Althea Alberto, who said in the motion for reconsideration filed by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in the decision of the SC Second Division affirming the city government’s right to levy local taxes from locators within the Camp John Hay Economic Zone, the revised charter was cited as basis to galvanize its position that the city government cannot collect taxes from the locators.
The suggestion of Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda; Benny Bomogao; and Leandro Yangot, Jr. who said the charter only need to be amended has been turned down as main movant, Councilor Jose Molintas, said amending the charter is a deviation from their previous stand that the revised charter is defective and therefore, unimplementable.
The city council previously passed a resolution requesting then President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the revised charter but instead of a veto, now Republic Act 11689 lapsed into law.
Critics said the revised charter is defective as it did not define the territorial boundary of Baguio with that of Tuba and Itogon. They also allege that it excluded Camp John Hay from Baguio’s territorial jurisdiction, which can affect the city’s interests in terms of taxation and segregation of barangays within the reservation.
The Local Government Code (LGC) also superseded the charter, some councilors said.
Critics also said there was not enough consultation in the crafting of the law as there was no plebiscite called to involve the community.
Rep. Mark Go previously denied the allegations.
Appearing before the city council’s special session on Aug. 18, Go reiterated the revised charter went through the tedious process before a bill becomes a law.
He said a law passed by Congress is presumed constitutional and for it to be invalidated, there must be clear definition of a violation of the constitution.
Go also expressed disappointment as to why the council now wants the revised charter annulled when it took many years before before Baguio was finally able to achieve this.
“Now that we are able to pass one, some of us are flip-flopping over perceived disadvantages which in the first place are not true,” Go said in a statement he read at the city council.
On the claim that the LGC repealed the charter, Go said the LGC only repeals inconsistent provisions of a charter but in the case of Baguio, he said nothing is inconsistent with the LGC.
On the need to call a plebiscite, Go said a plebiscite only applies if a local government unit will be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its territory substantially altered.
He said nothing in the revised charter substantially altered the territories of Baguio and the supposed exclusion of Camp John Hay reservation from Baguio is a restatement of a court decision that existing reservations are not part of the townsite reservation. However, the area remains a part of Baguio.
Go also belied the claim the revised charter is disadvantageous to Baguio. He said the BCDA’s citing of the revised charter in its motion is its own interpretation of the law.
He maintained Baguio still has the authority to levy taxes to businesses within CJH that are not registered with the special economic zone.
He also denied the area of CJH has been expanded, as he explained the 677 hectares is the total land area of CJH, which include the Voice of America compound and the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence.
Go also filed a new bill amending questioned provisions of the charter.
The proposed amendments from the council have also been solicited but as of Aug. 4, written proposals have yet to be submitted to the Office of the Congressman. – Rimaliza A. Opina