February 6, 2023

The amnesty meant to end the illegal subleasing, sale, and mortgage of stalls at the city market has not fully taken off because of unexpected incidents in the acceptance and processing of applications for amnesty.
Among these issues are the conflicting provisions of the amnesty ordinance and its implementing rules and guidelines, requiring original lessors who are now based abroad to personally appear in Baguio despite their signing of waiver and special power of attorney (SPA), refusal of sublessors from signing affidavits detailing their agreement with the original lessor, and alleged intimidation of lessors to sublessors.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said the implementing rules and guidelines should be in sync with the ordinance but recently, there were several complaints from lessors who applied for amnesty that the technical working group has been asking for unnecessary requirements that make the application cumbersome to the point that some choose not to pursue the amnesty anymore.
Tabanda said there were cases when the Baguio City Markey Authority (BCMA) declined to accept the SPA signed by the original lessee who is now based abroad and who has transferred their leasehold rights to the current occupant and required the original lessee to be physically present.
Market Supt. Marietta Alvarez said the BCMA is not requiring the original lessees who are now based abroad to come home. The cases cited involve the renewal of lease contract that require the physical presence of the lessee.
Alvarez said in these cases, it is the Tax Ordinance that they are implementing, not the amnesty.
Tabanda said the purpose of the amnesty is to improve the leasing system at the market and give a chance to long-time sublessors who obtained the consent of the original lessee to legalize their conduct of business at the market. She said implementing the Tax Ordinance instead of the amnesty ordinance, defeats the purpose of approving the reprieve.
“There is no amnesty kung walang violation. Ano pa ang silbi ng amnesty if you still impose the same requirements under the Tax Ordinance?” Tabanda told Alvarez and City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias.
The BCMA has also been requiring that only the legal heirs of the deceased original lessee should be allowed to continue with the lease of space yet the amnesty ordinance states that next lessee need not be the heir of the original lessee.
Cabarrubias said the BCMA is avoiding the award of space to third parties as this give rise to stalls being sold, instead of it being declared vacant and leased via auction as spelled out in the Tax Ordinance.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan has suggested that an executive-legislative meeting be set to settle how the amnesty ordinance should be implemented.
“The amnesty will be rendered inutile if it cannot serve its purpose,” Olowan said.
The Public Order and Safety Division was also called out for giving false hopes about sublessors getting priority over the original lessees when stalls will be awarded.
In 2019, the POSD was tasked to investigate the illegal assignment of stalls at the city market. The result of the investigation gave rise to the passing of the amnesty ordinance.
Councilor Mylen Yaranon said the task of assigning vacant stalls is with the BCMA, not the POSD. – Rimaliza A. Opiña