February 24, 2024

For the nth time, the city council has asked an audience with Rep. Mark Go to discuss what they call are gross errors in the provisions of the revised Baguio Charter authored by the latter and has since lapsed into law.

The invitation came after members aired their dismay and eventually shared their sentiments during their session on July 3 where Go was a no-show, saying he had prior engagements.

The councilors said this is the right time for Go to provide answers to the concerns they have been raising as regards to the provisions of the city charter which they claim will adversely affect the interest of Baguio and its residents, for his consideration before Congress resumes session later this month.

Among the other concerns the council wanted Go to address in the revised charter are the provisions that state the resolutions and ordinances passed by the city council should be subject to the review of the Benguet provincial board and the increase in the area covering the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the provision in the revised charter mandating the city council secretary to forward to the Benguet board resolutions and ordinances passed by the legislative body for the latter’s confirmation is a gross mistake and a gross violation of the law.

Councilor Jose Molintas shared the sentiment, saying such provision is indeed problematic as it downgrades Baguio like a component city of Benguet.

“The explanation that the inclusion of that provision is a clerical error is not acceptable because if Benguet will invoke that since our charter says so, then it makes us a component city, not a highly-urbanized city,” Molintas said.

He added the provision expanding BCDA’s coverage to 626 hectares is also a serious matter that should have been avoided had Go consulted with the local officials, including the barangays that are affected when the area of BCDA will be expanded.

Molintas added another concern Go should look into is the move to have the charter be subject to a plebiscite “so the people of Baguio can vote whether or not the charter will be applied to the city.”

“He is our congressman. He should see to it that the rights of the people whom he represents are protected,” Molintas.

Councilor Michael Lawana said it is a mortal sin against the 13 barangays within the BCDA reservation if the concern on the expansion of BCDA’s area, which in the revised charter includes the Philippine Export Zone Authority, is not addressed.

“We really need him to explain this to us because it is not clear in the charter what barangays will the areas to be added in the expanded coverage of the BCDA come from,” Lawana said.

Councilors Peter Fianza and Leandro Yangot came to Go’s defense, saying Go has informed the recommendations and amendments the council wants were considered in the amendatory bill he filed.

Councilors Arthur Allad-iw and Elmer Datuin, however, said it would still be best for Go to meet with the council for a discussion on the provisions to be amended.

“Part of the legislative process is consultation. He should explain to us the developments on the revised charter. We have proposals before that we forwarded to his office which were not considered. I believe the welfare and the rights of the people of Baguio were not fully considered,” Allad-iw said.

Datuin said there is indeed a need for more consultations since the members have been receiving concerns from the barangays that some provisions of the revised charter will be disadvantageous to them.

“We hope he will consult with us. That’s how legislation works; it’s a matter of consultation,” he said.

Councilor Vladimir Cayabas added it would not hurt if Go meets with the council or initiates a dialogue with the members.

“We need to discuss the charter together so that we can have a uniformity of understanding its provisions because we are all doing this for the people of Baguio,” he said.

Olowan said they will ask the secretaries of the Lower House and the Senate for copies of the minutes of the deliberations of the bill that revised the city charter to see where the errors were committed.

“We want to see why were the provisions that are not present in the beginning were included in the revised charter,” he said.

The city council has been inviting Go to appear in one of their sessions, but the latter is yet to accept the invitation.

In his letter reply to the council’s latest invitation, Go said he did not see why his participation in the body’s session will “aid in legislation”, adding, “The charter is a national law, which cannot be subservient to a legislative measure that will emanate from the halls of the city council.”

He however asked the city council to submit their proposed amendments in writing and submit them to his office before the resumption of the regular session of Congress on July 24. – Jane B. Cadalig