By IRISAN PEOPLE’S ACTION AGAINST DEMOLITION AND FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE (IPADEGG)
We are informal settlers at Barangay Irisan, Baguio City. We vehemently oppose the passage into law of House Bill No. 3759, An Act Revising the Charter of the City of Baguio, ultimately because we believe that the revision will eventually lead to the unjust displacement of poor landless citizens like us.
Your Excellency, we come to you with this earnest appeal for a careful consideration for the following reasons why we are opposed to the approval of said bill:
1. House Bill No. 3759 did not pass through meticulous public consultations to get Baguio citizens sufficiently informed. Virtually every ordinary citizen here does not have even a modest understanding of its contents. If there had been any consultation, it was exclusively among public officials. The people who would most likely be affected by its passage were not invited.
2. The chairmanship of the Awards Committee tasked to distribute public lands as specified in the Bill should not be given to the local Chief Executive, but rather to the DENR Regional Executive Director. Allowing the City Mayor to head the Awards Committee would pave a way for unimaginable graft and corruption. It may serve the public well if it consistently elects a true statesman. Times change, nonetheless, and it is not always the case that non-self-serving candidates get to serve the people. If we shall allow the Local Chief Executive to participate in the awarding process, his or her participation should be exercised only symbolically.
3. The bill’s approval could actually be taken advantage of by unscrupulous candidates in the scheduled political activities next year. On this concern alone, If you shall decide to sign the bill, please have it signed after the May 2013 elections.
4. The composition of the awards committee is unsatisfactory and highly questionable. It should include at least one representative from any reputable Baguio-based non-government organization engaged in legitimate activities related to the uplift of the city’s landless.
5. If approved the bill would allow the Townsite Sales Application (TSA) and Miscellaneous Sales Application (MSA) modes of acquiring lots in the City. These systems entail bidding which is absolutely inimical to the poor.
6. The bill does not provide for a referendum. This highlights the sinister resolve not to have the people duly informed.
7. The bill purports to increase the City’s revenue. Nevertheless, increase in revenue is achievable without recourse to a charter change.
8. The bill’s provision pertaining to illegal settlers is redundant. With political will, existing national and local laws and policies are enough to address the squatting problem in the city.
9. The forest reserves and alienable and disposable public lands of the city can be surveyed at any time without the need of a new charter meant for the same purpose.
10. The provisions of the Free Patent Act (R. A. No. 10023) on land distribution are more favorable and way better than those of the proposed bill. On this note, the bill is superfluous.
11. The bill’s provision on bidding is anti-poor and hence unconstitutional.
In principle the purpose of legislation is the promotion of just solutions to social problems. While the bill seeks to remedy the problems of the landless, it would actually do more damage than it intends to cure. To hypothesize, where two or more individuals have the same qualifications to own a lot, the law itself would be inequitable where it allows an individual to acquire a lot by virtue of the other applicant’s indigence (Sec 46, #5). We propose that the lot subject for awarding should be awarded to all occupants without the required bidding.
One might anticipate that to enliven this proposition would lead to a situation where one, some, or all of the qualified applicants would be awarded with an area less than 200 square meters, contrary to Sec. 46 (4) which proscribes the award of lots smaller than 200 square meters. Nevertheless, our proposition would be far more equitable than exempting one qualified applicant to own his share only for lack of money to participate in the bidding.
If the primary purpose is to dispose of alienable land to a landless individual—a purpose often trumpeted by the those pushing for the bill’s approval—instead of letting him participate in some tedious process, why not just have the land awarded to him for the fact that he is landless and qualified to receive it?
A 300 square meter public lot is occupied by indigent individuals W, X, Y, and Z, where W occupies 50 square meters; X, 50 square meters; Y, 50 square meters; and Z, 50 square meters. If the lot is awarded to all four, such award would violate the bill’s 200 square meter rule. However, this rule directly contradicts the government’s goal to provide every landless citizen a land on which to build. To award the land to a sole beneficiary, say, X, at the expense of the other three who are equally qualified, so as to give effect to an inequitable proviso, is a travesty of justice. This clearly runs counter to the government’s duty to protect the poor. One is given land, but the other three are made more destitute than ever before.
With the above reasons, we conclude that the bill is an anti-poor, hasty, and ill-considered legislation, the approval of which would only aggravate the plight of the landless. If possible, it must be vetoed and returned back to the House where it originated to be crafted into a better law that is truly beneficial to the poor.
Mr. President, we will honor any decision you might come up with regarding H.B. No. 3759. If the bill must be approved, we only hope that before its approval our concerns are given a fair amount of reflection, all in the name of good public service and in line with today’s rallying cry for Matuwid na Daan.” # nordis.net