Baguio takes on new image as human rights protector
BAGUIO CITY — Baguio is rebranding as an “inclusive human rights city” that respects and shields the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer) community, all activists, those with a disability, and the elderly from discrimination.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong signed City Resolution No. 763 on Wednesday, which the city council passed unanimously during a special budget session on Tuesday, ahead of this year’s International Human Rights Day commemoration on Sunday.
It sets a city policy that no Baguio resident or guest would suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation, their gender, or their political beliefs and social affiliations.
The resolution is part of the Baguio government’s initiatives to strengthen civil rights. It said the city had “stood up on critical issues and concerns about human rights violations, vilification and threats against rights defenders.”
According to the resolution, Baguio has committed to making it safe for all activists by banning Red-tagging materials.
“[The city has been] compliant with Human Rights Advisory No. 2021-03 (of the Commission on Human Rights Cordillera Office) against the Red-tagging of human rights groups and civil society organizations,” it said.
The resolution also states that residents need to be reassured that the local government will protect “every citizen exercising their democratic rights” and will continue advocating for civil rights policies and education.
It stressed that Baguio had “intimate ties with civil liberties,” citing residents and activists who mounted the city leg of the 1986 People Power Revolt at the Baguio Cathedral to protect soldiers who defected and joined the peaceful revolution.
Councilor Peter Fianza, a former city administrator and chair of the committee on laws, sponsored the measure alongside Councilors Fred Bagbagen and Jose Molintas, both of them lawyers.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan urged the council to convert the “Human Rights City” resolution into an ordinance.
Baguio is also known as a “Character City” for promoting good moral standards and was recently the country’s first “Creative City” (crafts and folk arts) after it was invited to join the World Creative Cities Network of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2017.
Resolution No. 763 said the local government would continue enforcing and reviewing laws that promote human rights.
A proposed ordinance protecting all human rights defenders in Baguio, which Fianza coauthored with Molintas and Councilor Arthur Allad-iw, a former journalist, is on second reading.