July 14, 2024

While everyone was busy during the campaign period, Republic Act 11689, or the Revised Charter of Baguio has lapsed into law on April 26.
After 113 years, the 1909 (Act 1963) colonial charter authored by Justice George Malcolm was updated.
There were several bills that sought revision of the charter of Baguio except for House Bill 3759 which was vetoed by then President Benigno Aquino III for containing provisions that clash with present laws, the other proposals never “moved”.
Here are my simple observations about the revised charter.
It abolished old and impractical offices in the bureaucracy and retained present offices.
The City Legal Office head has been defined as having a minimum qualification of five years practice.
It created boards and councils like the Tourism Council, Conventions and Visitors Bureau, Sister City Council, Character City Council, Traffic and Transportation Management Council, Smart City Council, City Market Authority, e-governance etc.
It also provided for the election of an indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) to the city council.
But the Supreme Court, in its decision in Piraso vs. Court of Appeals, says the Indigenous People’s Rights Act does not apply in the city. Hence if there is no IPRA, there goes the IPMR.
RA 11689 will jeopardize the land situation in the city for it excludes all unoccupied alienable lands “between roads and lands adjoining legal easements from creeks and rivers” from sale. Instead, lots measuring 200 square meters or less shall be delineated as part of Baguio’s greenbelt. This means more chaos with ancestral land claims.
The Camp John Hay master development plan had 19 conditions spelled out in Resolution 362 s. 1994. Article 12 separates the forested reservation from the city townsite.
The property, of which 247 hectares have been commercialized, was the only government reservation excluded from the townsite in the modern charter, unlike 15 other military, forest, health and agricultural reservations inside the city borders.
This implies that all certificates of ancestral land titles issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples would now be recalled or voided.
The segregation of 14 barangays like Sta. Escholastica, Country Club Village, Upper Dagsian and Greenwater now faces danger of being denied. Lucky for Scout Barrio as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority released control in 2001, excluding roads, parks, and other facilities meant for public use.
The land rights of Ibaloys vanished and BCDA now seeks to nullify in court previously awarded titles.
Others, like the 25 percent share from and power of the city to issue building permits inside the Special Economic Zone are gone.
The revised charter also did not actually and with finality solve the boundary dispute between Tuba, Benguet and Baguio.
So, is the revised charter unconstitutional? The lack of a provision for a plebiscite or referendum is a fatal and constitutional defect primarily because it does not allow residents to ratify “this most important” policy document.
The Local Government Code does not require a plebiscite but why not when a plebiscite for an autonomous region?
The changes are substantive enough to affect residents of Baguio, hence the need to be ratified by the people. Basic where the assailed legislative or executive act is found to be contrary to the Constitution, it is null and void.
As the new Civil Code puts it,“When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall govern.”
Administrative or executive acts, orders, and regulations shall be valid only when they are not contrary to the laws or the Constitution. The said provision of the Civil Code reflects the orthodox view that an unconstitutional act, whether legislative or executive, is not a law, confers no rights, imposes no duties, and affords no protection.
The city certainly stands to be directly affected by the revised charter so all registered voters should be allowed to ratify it or not in a plebiscite.
One official said it was not a perfect law but the implementing rules and regulations would correct the defects. Ignorance is bliss!
The implementing rules and regulations cannot cure by amendment of the law and the law takes effect immediately.
When you go to a mall and buy a pair of jeans, you don’t buy one which is defective only to have it repaired again, ‘di ba sir? Baka naman one of the newly minted honorables or a taxpayer would be willing to question it before the SC, otherwise…
Sigh.