BAGUIO CITY—President Benigno Aquino III said he vetoed a bill amending the 1909 Baguio City Charter because it included provisions that create “a kingdom of Baguio.”
The President brought up the controversial Baguio charter issue as he criticized city officials running against Team PNoy’s Baguio slate at a campaign rally in Burnham Park on March 17.
The measure was sponsored by reelectionist Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who first filed it as representative in 2001, and was shepherded in Congress by reelectionist Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara.
Domogan and Vergara are with the United Nationalist Alliance.
“Wait a minute, are they already forming a Kingdom of Baguio?” Mr. Aquino said, pointing to a charter provision that allows the Baguio mayor to mobilize the police or military to quell “public disturbances.”
Vergara said there is no such provision in the bill passed by the bicameral conference committee.
The original draft charter, written and circulated in 2001 by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), does grant the mayor power to “call upon the appropriate law enforcement agencies to suppress disorder, riot, lawless violence, rebellion or sedition, and to apprehend violators of the law when public interest so requires and the city police forces are inadequate to cope with the situation or the violators.”
FLAG’s draft was written before Domogan’s initiative.
Some city officials and lawyers here believe the President may have mixed up provisions of House Bill No. 121 (which was renamed HB 3759 in the bicameral committee last year) with provisions of another measure that tries, for the third time, to convert the Cordillera into an autonomous region.
The Cordillera autonomy bill, which is pending in Congress, grants the prospective governor authority to tap the police and the military to handle a public crisis, they said.
At a news conference on March 20, Virgilio Bautista, cochair of the Regional Development Council, said Malacañang should reexamine the amended Baguio charter which Mr. Aquino vetoed, instead of listening to advisers who are not familiar with issues confronting the city.
“There are some issues that need to be clarified… The proposed charter has a lot of advantages. One of the major things is the clarification of boundaries,” said Bautista.
The President endorsed the Baguio candidates of Team PNoy at the rally and, without naming names, compared Baguio officials to his predecessor, ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“If there is a chance to deceive the people, they would do it,” said the President.
“They are no longer on Kennon Road, but they still operate like the zigzag road,” he said, a reference to his good governance platform, “tuwid na daan” (righteous path). Vincent Cabreza and Frank Cimatu, Inquirer Northern Luzon