Public question proposed Baguio City Charter

July 26, 2009 in Baguio City, land rights by emendator

By WENDY ATUBAN
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The proposed city charter of Baguio which is pending in the senate earned criticism as well as disapproval from individuals and different organizations here.

House Bill 6374, an Act revising the charter of the city of Baguio, authored by Representative Mauricio Domogan is looked on as problematic due to questionable land distribution and anti-poor provisions.

In a forum here Wednesday, former councilor Jose Mencio Molintas identified provisions in the new charter that people should focus their scrutiny and must be subjected to public consultation.

With the usual calm composure and a winning smile, he expressed his objection to the removal of the provision on subjecting the proposed charter to a plebiscite which is reserved for the people, their right to reject or approve an act of the legislation and/or the legislation referred to them.

He said there is no provision for plebiscite on the proposed charter. He sees the absence of such provision as dangerous. “The danger of HB 6374 is walang (no/absence of) plebiscite,” he said while reiterating the need for a consultation with the native people of Baguio. “Maraming probisyon na dapat ibalik sa tao (many provisions should go back to the people for their scrutiny),” he further stated.

Going on to the hottest issue which raised the greatest concern of all the participants in the forum, Molintas denounced the new charter for its “confiscatory of ancestral land claims” nature. He explained that under the proposed charter, the renowned Cariño Doctrine which provides that lands that have native title will not be declared as public lands, may not be realized as it is happening now.

He considered the old charter “as an instrument of the colonial people” and advocated for the correction of the injustice done by the old charter to the [original settlers of Benguet] by consulting ancestral land claimants and the rest of the people.

He explained further that under the proposed charter lands of informal settlers will be resold them at a higher price and most of the lands would be sold for business since most probably those who need lands more cannot afford to buy lots.

Although he lauded the new land classification in the proposed charter, he still doubts that all the complicated land problems in the city will be resolved by the obscure provision on ancestral land on article 12 of HB 6374. Article 10 of the proposed charter classified lands into three categories as national government-owned lands and reservations, private lands which include recognized legitimate ancestral lands, and town site areas.

Molintas also noted absence of some provisions that are found in the Local Government Code of 1991 but are not considered by the new charter. He said the proposed charter does not recognize role of civil society or non-government organizations which is according to him emphasized in the Local Government Code. Likewise, he said the proposal lacked provisions on human rights.

‘Turn land problems from bad to worse’

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance and Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU) deplored the land provision of the local Cha-cha bid as “another law that will violate right to land.” The groups together with Molintas considered the provision in the proposed cha-cha of putting administration of land at the hands of the city government instead of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which is the current case, as additional complication to land concerns in the city. Molintas explained this may result in conflict of titling between the NCIP and the city.

CPA and TTU claimed said provision will not resolve problems of lessening corruption, but it only “transfers corruption from one to the other.”

Molintas agreed stating, “kung corrupt ang DENR, mas corrupt ang syudad.”

Anti-poor Cha-cha

According to the joint statement of the group, Article 10, or the provision entitled Baguio Townsite Reservation and Watersheds is new and therefore has doubtful motive. They specially doubted the motivation on the selling of alienable lands. Apart from that they also ranted on the policies of disposing off alienable lands. They vehemently object the “first come first serve basis” and the “builders in good faith and builders in bad faith” clauses in article 10.

According to the two organizations, the first come first serve basis entails that only the rich and those who could meet parameters set by the law can apply. They explained the process in awarding land is as complicated as ever that the poor man could not afford these.

They also criticized the set qualification of those who could buy land. The groups considered section 44 number six of article 10 which set the qualification of who could buy land as “an attack on the marginalized and poor sectors of society.”

Section 44 number six of article 10 states that “No preference shall be accorded squatters or builders of bad faith (those without building permits) in the acquisition of a public land.” This they said preludes massive demolition of houses since most residents even the oldest ones have no building permits.

The Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga umili iti Syudad (Ornus) on one hand called the Baguio cha-cha as anti-poor and claimed the disposing of alienable lands by bidding as found in article 10 as a “primary means of land acquisition.” They also see wanton demolition in the said provision of HB6374.

No enough reason to push Cha-cha

Molintas has no doubt that “the new proposals contained in the said Cha-cha proposal” are not sufficient justification to press on for a new charter.

The CPA and TTU on the other hand urged the people to call the attention of the senate to this matter. # nordis.net

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