March 3, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana   

Baguio Councilor Jose Molintas is prepared to file a petition before the Supreme Court to declare Republic Act 11689 or the Revised Charter of the City of Baguio unconstitutional.

The councilor insisted the city’s revised charter authored by Rep. Mark Go is unconstitutional due to lack of plebiscite, which he said should be conducted for proposed charters since almost nothing in the city’s new charter was revised.

He said there is also already a resolution passed by the city council tasking the City Legal Office to come up with a draft for a petition for a declaratory relief so that it will be a petition by the city government to see if the effectivity of the revised city charter is binding.

“We plan to directly file a petition to declare it as unconstitutional due to lack of plebiscite. The congressman calls it revised, but my position is there is nothing to revise in the old charter because the old charter except for the name Baguio and the date of incorporation on Sept. 1, 1909, nothing is left already. In 1983, we had a Local Government Code, which said in its transitory provision all charters that are not consistent are being repealed and truly, the LGC is very different from the old charter. In 1991 we had another LGC, which repeated that old charters inconsistent with it is already deemed repealed. So we have been living under the LGC, never had we gone back to the old charter,” Molintas said.

In his privilege speech before at the city council, Councilor Fred Bagbagen claimed 99 percent of the RCC are copied from the LGC, and added provisions that are detrimental to the city.

Among which is it does not provide for a definite territorial jurisdiction of the city, that approved ordinances of the city have to be forwarded to the Provincial Board of Benguet; and the provision that says the Camp John Hay reservation with a total land area of 6,254,105 square meters subject to final survey which was transferred to the Bases Conversion Development Authority is not part of the Baguio Townsite Reservation, among other observations.

The latter provision raised concern from the city council, which insists it affects the commitment of the BCDA to segregate the 13 barangays within the reservation as enshrined in Resolution 362-1994 or the 19 conditions of the city before allowing the development of Camp John Hay.

Bagbagen reiterated the lack of consultation before the RCC lapsed into law.

“My concern is how to repeal this revised charter soon because instead of it providing solutions, it is creating problems. They (the BCDA) are now using the RCC as a weapon against the city. It is being used against the city. I don’t know how we could have that situation,” Bagbagen said.

Molintas said, “For this we are ready to file the petition because it (the bill before it became a law) did not allow or afford us the plebiscite to vote for it. It has created more issues rather than solving our problems in the city and it is my recommendation that we come up with our own new city charter to be done by the people themselves.”

The CJH segregation is subject of another bill filed by Go on Oct. 26, an offshoot of the RCC law which councilors have also criticized.

The council’s letter to Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Nov. 23 stated the bill was filed without manifested coordination; it does not seek for the segregation of the entire concerned barangays; it lacked clamored consultations; it appears allowing BCDA to enrich itself from properties it may not rightfully be entitled to; there is need for validation of listed excluded areas in the concerned barangays; and the inclusion of Barangay Happy Hollow in the proposed law will raise the issue of affected ancestral domain.

Go, in an earlier interview, has maintained he has observed the rules and procedures in filing the bills and denied allegations of lack of sufficient consultations. He added he has no reasons to favor BCDA in filing both the RCC and the pending house bill on CJH segregation.

The congressman as well was firm that the revised charter when it was still a bill, did not require a plebiscite.

He said the claim that the old Baguio charter was deemed repealed by the LGC is false, citing Section 5 of the LGC that says all general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, proclamations, and administrative regulations or parts thereof which are inconsistent with the provisions of the code are repealed or modified accordingly.

“It is very clear that a city charter can only be repealed by the LGC if it is inconsistent with the general law. The entire original city charter is not inconsistent with the LGC,” Go earlier said.

Molintas said aside from their plan to have the effectivity of the RCC clarified through a possible SC petition, they have requested the Office of the City Mayor to allow the use of the Baguio Convention Center in January 2024 for a public consultation together with the BCDA, concerned city officials and agencies, and other stakeholders to further discuss and iron out concerns on the RCC and House Bill 9428 or “Declaring as alienable and disposable certain parcels of land of the public domain located in the City of Baguio for disposition to actual and qualified applicants thereby excluding the said lands from the coverage of RA 7227 and Proclamation 420-1994 which transferred John Hay Air Station to BCDA.”