June 23, 2024

The city council have raised questions on House Bill 8882 or the proposed revised charter of Baguio City, which has just been ratified by both houses of Congress, and just days before it was submitted to the Office of the President last week.
The council members have set a meeting with Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Rep. Mark Go on March 14 to discuss the concerns which they claimed were not contained in the final draft of the bill and overlooked by Congress even when these were submitted in a position paper before the House and Senate approved its versions through its bicameral conference committee.
In the council regular session last March 7, Malacañang officials led by Sec. Luzverfeda Pascual, Acting Presidential Adviser on Legislative Affairs and head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, told the council that HB 8882 at that moment was already in its enrolled form, which means it is already signed by the House Speaker and Senate President, and set for transmittal by March 10 to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
The President has 30 days or until April 9 to either sign, veto, or allow the bill to lapse into law.
The councilors, however, informed the PLLO they were not furnished a copy of the final draft of HB 8882 before it was ratified by Congress and just learned that their positions on salient provisions were not incorporated in the bill.
Among their points they want contained in the bill concern the absence of provisions on territorial boundaries and ways to tackle boundary disputes, the exact measurement of the city’s territorial jurisdiction, and matters concerning ancestral domains and the Camp John Hay reservation.
As raised by Councilor Lourdes Tabanda, the councilors also had just been apprised of the provision which says the city has to create new departments for City Tourism Office and City Public Information Office aside from the City Disaster and Risk Reduction Office, which Tabanda said will require budgetary allocations.
Councilor Arthur Allad-iw has decried the limited time for consultations during the House and Senate deliberations on the bill, particularly on conflicts concerning ancestral land domains and Camp John Hay, which will be under the control of the Basis Conversion and Development Authority and considered not part of the city’s townsite reservation.
Councilors Michael Lawana and Fred Bagbagen said the position of the city on the John Hay issue is crucial since it will affect the ongoing discussions on the segregation of the 13 barangays within the former military reservation as per the 19 conditions set forth in City Resolution 362-1994 which they said must be followed.
“I am not amenable with the BCDA provisions. What will happen to the barangays within John Hay? We are worried if this will be approved, it might again derail or affect the ongoing agreement on the segregation of 13 barangays. We cannot function as a local government unit because of the intervention of BCDA. We do not see specific solutions to the problems we have now with CJH and so we are not happy (about this version) of the bill,” Lawan said.
Pascual said the PLLO, which is in charge of monitoring and doing interventions at Congress to harmonize conflicting provisions on legislative measures, respects the councilors’ sentiments but at this point the contents of the bill can no longer be changed and it is their ministerial duty to transmit it to the Office of the President and follow the process.
She said what is left for the city council to do is express their support to its passage, considering that the proposed revised charter of Baguio had already been vetoed twice by previous administrations.
However she said the council may interpret, discuss, dispute, or air their sentiments on the provisions of the bill but the matter now lies in the hands of the President.
Pascual expressed surprise on the council’s concerns, which she said should have been brought up during the meetings called upon to receive comments and suggestions held in the city in 2021 led by the committee of Sen. Francis Tolentino, together with Go, the bill’s author, Magalong, other city officials, concerned agencies, and stakeholders.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan told Pascual the city council did and submitted a position paper but this seemed to have been overlooked.
Pascual recommended for the councilors to write the President regarding their concerns through the PLLO and committed to have it brought to the attention of the President.
“We are also mandated to advise him for example that the concerned agencies are amenable to the provisions to the amendments to the charter. But if and when you feel like issuing a support or disagreement to the ratified version, you may do so and we will definitely transmit it to the President. I guess the President will recognize your comments although it is discretionary on his part,” Pascual said.
She, however, emphasized that the provisions addressed in the amended versions and the subject concerns of the council were among the main reasons why the previous proposed revised charter were vetoed by then Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III and which are now supposed to be addressed in HB 8882.
The council has referred the March 7 discussions on the matter to Bagbagen who was tasked to draft a resolution that will be discussed during the executive-legislative meeting with Magalong and Go on March 14. – Hanna C. Lacsamana