November 30, 2022

By a majority vote, the city council has passed a resolution asking President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the ratified version of House Bill 8882 or the proposed revised charter of Baguio City.
Councilors Arthur Allad-iw; Fred Bagbagen; Benny Bomogao; Vladimir Cayabas; Isabelo Cosalan, Jr., Lilia Fariñas; Michael Lawana; Francisco Roberto Ortega VI; and Mylen Yaranon voted in favor of the resolution while councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Joel Alangsab, Levy Lloyd Orcales, Elaine Sembrano, and Philian Allan abstained.
The councilors said there is a need to address issues in some provisions of the proposed revised charter, which they claim will not represent the wishes of the city’s constituents if not addressed.
The council said it had submitted a position paper to the technical working committee and manifested during a Senate meeting last year, containing the members’ comments, suggestions, and amendments they wanted to be incorporated in the final version of the bill, pertaining to the city’s territorial jurisdiction, the segregation of 13 barangays from Camp John Hay reservation, and ancestral land claims and other issues, among other concerns.
The councilors said their proposed amendments, however, were not considered in the version ratified by both houses of Congress.
They said there were no substantial consultations regarding the revisions, a plebiscite should be conducted, and the city should not be in a hurry to pass the proposed revisions.
The bill was transmitted to the Office of the President early this month. The President has 30 days to either sign, veto, or allow the bill to lapse into law.
Rep. Mark Go, who authored the bill, said he is saddened by the city council’s action, since the Congress had worked hard for the passage of the bill for years.
He said the bill is a product of careful study, review, and series of consultations before at the House of Representatives and Senate.
Go said the deliberations on the bill followed the process, refuting the claim the council members were not given chance to participate in the deliberations at the House and at the Senate.
He said stakeholders including Mayor Benjamin Magalong and concerned government agencies took part, and the vice mayor and councilors were invited but did not attend some meetings at the House level.
They were again invited during the hearing led by Sen. Francis Tolentino in Baguio City last year where some councilors attended and took part in the discussion.
Go said his office did not receive a copy of the city council’s position paper, otherwise their concerns would have been tackled or considered in the bill.
Go has assured the city council their concerns could be tackled separately and he is willing to file measures when necessary.
On the issue on the city’s territorial jurisdiction, he said his original bill contained its specific metes and bounds but it was agreed that it shall comprise the existing territorial jurisdiction without prejudice to the pending territorial dispute between the city and Tuba, Benguet and its resolution.
“If we claim the specific metes and bounds, that means the city and Tuba should agree and resolve the dispute first. To avoid that, while pending, the territorial jurisdiction of the city shall comprise the present territorial jurisdiction and whatever the decision of the parties later will form part of the city’s territorial jurisdiction,” Go said.
As regards the Camp John Hay reservation, the area is outside the city’s townsite reservation and governed by Republic Act 7227 or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992.
As such the segregation of 13 barangays within the John Hay reservation that is one of the 19 conditions of the city government in endorsing Resolution 362, s. 1994 that approved the master development of the former U.S. recreation base was not included in the bill.
“The problem is the 19 conditions of the city whether through a resolution or ordinance cannot supersede the BCDA law, and I have not seen a document that shows that BCDA agrees to the 19 conditions,” Go said.
However, Go said it was agreed during deliberations that the matter will be tackled separately and he is willing to file a bill amending the BCDA law to legitimize the 19 conditions.
He said it is not true the issue was not discussed with stakeholders, as he claimed the BCDA, CJH Development Corp., National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and representatives from the 13 barangays have convened in several meetings and created a technical working group.
He said it was agreed they will resolve issues on lands titled under BCDA, public lands, and wait for the resolution of pending petitions involving lands whose titles were issued by NCIP.
“I will look at all the conditions and I am willing to come up with a measure to amend the BCDA law so that they will respect the 19 conditions,” Go said.
He said the issues are important and may be tackled separately but not substantial to call for a plebiscite based on the Local Government Code.
He maintained the revised charter is favorable and will work for the welfare of the city.
Magalong said he is satisfied with the provisions of the revised charter and has sent on March a letter to the Office of the President strongly endorsing its approval.
“I believe both the House and the Senate exhausted all efforts to really get the opinion of all stakeholders,” Magalong said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana