May 30, 2023


We see the intent of the proposed resolution to grant amnesty to original leaseholders at the Baguio City public market found violating the Market Code for subleasing, use of dummies, mortgaging, and selling their rented stalls as a wise, if not a best first step offered so far to realize the city government’s long-delayed plan to develop the facility.
Now on second reading and for publication at the city council, the three-month amnesty program prescribes options to cleanse the current setup and strictly enforce the method provided by law in stall leasing in the public market, including all satellite markets in the city and Slaughterhouse, the violation of which has unfortunately been the norm for decades in open and every illegal way possible.
Since there has been a clear, prolonged abuse of the Market Code provision that it is the original lease owner that should personally conduct business in a leased stall, finally bringing back order in the market stall operations as dictated by law should be counted as a development by itself, a positive transformation as good as having a modernized physical structure, as it would show the competence of city and market constituents to manage a modernized public market, if ever it pushes through.
We consider the conditions provided in the proposed amnesty program to be reasonable and humane, but not absolutely a win-win solution.
First, it looks like giving erring market stall owners an easy way out.As stated, the proposed measure would allow them to settle their arrangement with those who subleased, mortgaged, or bought the rights to the stalls from them within three months, among other conditions.
It seems we forgot the various arrangements they entered into are illegal in the first place, which means one or both should be held liable. Other than having the subject stall declared vacant if a settlement is not reached after adjudication by the Baguio City Market Authority, the proposal –being an “amnesty program” – does not provide for fines or punitive damages, which we believe should be just right for irregularities of such scale,to serve as a warning to future market occupants and deter the violator from engaging in similar activity in the future.
Though it’s true the proposal might finally curb such violations, we feel some of sort of justice should be served for years of deceit in an activity that involves serving public need and dealing with funds.
Second, we expect issues to get complicated as the process of putting things in order in the market goes full swing. For this, we urge the authorities to prepare for complications arising between original leaseholders and actual occupants of stalls, who surely would both press for their right over the stall, among other issues.
These irregularities in the market stall management,which brought profits to leaseholders– way more than the city government generates –by sublease, mortgage, and sale of market stalls at the expense of the city government’s property,have become the custom within the public market for decades; it can only be presumed it has been tolerated by authorities during previous administrations.
When the current administration made the public market modernization a part of its 15-point agenda, we expected that an organized, foolproof market stall lease plan would be given priority alongside if not over its physical development,which the city is now negotiating through public-private partnership scheme.
We laud the discovery – or confirmation – of the mode of leasing and subleasing of market stalls, which bloats rental fees to as high as hundreds of thousands, to the detriment of sub-lessees and taxpayers, as promised and initiated by the city mayor’s office. The challenge would be in sustaining this resolve, handling the complex market issues with competence, and not giving in to unlawful compromises just for the sake of saying a win-win situation has been had.
More than the need to modernize the city’s show-window physical structure, we believe the public would appreciate it more to have a clean, organized, and well-managed public market in and out, where bargaining skills are used in getting the best value for one’s products and monies, not in illegally taking advantage of the situation for personal gain.