In a privilege speech delivered on December 11, 2023, Councilor Fred Bagbagen unleashed strong
criticisms against the Revised City Charter (Republic Act No. 11689). In his speech, the councilor invoked the rhetorical question, “What is pinikpikan without the ‘etag’?” This was a reference to the renowned Cordilleran chicken dish that traditionally includes smoked meat known as “etag.”

He used this analogy to express his belief that the Revised City Charter lacks the necessary elements for the effective governance of Baguio City. He then went on to express his disappointment in the revised charter, describing it as “shameful” and a “disservice” to the City of Baguio. He denounced the legislation as poorly crafted, lackadaisical, and devoid of class, depth, and substance.

One of the key points of contention he raised was the lack of a definite territorial jurisdiction in the revised charter. He pointed to Section 3 of the charter, highlighting that it did not provide a clear
territorial jurisdiction which, according to him, runs counter to the objectives of the revised charter. In his view, the absence of a territorial jurisdiction hinders the city from coming up with master development plans for its lands.

The councilor emphasized the necessity of resolving the boundary dispute with the Municipality of Tuba before establishing a Revised City Charter with a clear territorial jurisdiction. He underscored
the importance of collaboration between Baguio and Tuba to reach a fair settlement. Bagbagen further criticized specific provisions in the revised charter, particularly those related to the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

He questioned the inclusion of BCDA and John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) representatives in city committees, stating that it allowed external entities to interfere in the affairs of Baguio. The councilor scrutinized Article XII, Section 55 of the revised charter, which dealt with the Camp John Hay Reservation. He argued that this provision was misleading and deceptive and was eventually used by BCDA and JHMC against the city in legal proceedings.

He argued that this provision contains deceptive language and could have unintended consequences. He accused Congressman Mark Go, proponent of the revised charter, of placing “Trojan horses” in the revised charter, allowing BCDA/JHMC to assert authority over the city. He further argued that the provision legitimizes the expansion of the area transferred to BCDA from 570 ha to 625 ha, creating a “city within a city.”

Towards the end of his speech, Bagbagen called for the immediate repeal of RA 11689, emphasizing the need for a thorough reassessment and consultation with the people of Baguio. He suggested that a new bill be proposed, aligning with the aspirations and ideals of the local residents. The privilege speech also shed light on the legal and procedural irregularities in the revised charter, including a provision related to the forwarding of approved ordinances to the provincial board of Benguet, potentially compromising Baguio’s status as a component city.

In his concluding remarks, Bagbagen urged Go to set aside his ego, acknowledge the concerns raised, and initiate the repeal of RA 11689. He expressed optimism that the people of Baguio would rally behind a new bill if proper consultations were conducted. Since 2022, the city council has dedicated significant efforts to rectify specific provisions of the Revised City Charter, following an
unsuccessful attempt to persuade former President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the bill.

The Revised City Charter was introduced with promises of addressing long-standing issues. However, as the details of the charter become scrutinized, dissenting voices within the city council have emerged, challenging the clarity and implications of certain provisions. The controversy
surrounding the Revised City Charter continues to fuel discussions within the local community, emphasizing the significance of community engagement in shaping the city’s future.

Jordan G. Habbiling/SP

Amianan Balita Ngayon