‘Rare opportunity’ reason leads to disorder

>> Thursday, December 15, 2016


BAGUIO CITY -- Last month, lawmakers at the Baguio City hall “violated” an ordinance that the legislative body in 2012 passed. Ordinance No. 13 of 2012 amended the Trade Fair Ordinance of 1994.
Ordinance of 1994 prohibits trade fairs in all city-owned or city-managed parks and government-owned and controlled properties and facilities.
In their “violation,” the city council approved in a resolution the request of the HRAB (Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio) to allow stalls to operate a Christmas bazaar from December 1 to January 1, 2017 at the Melvin Jones football field.
That comes to a total of 30 days that certainly violates Ordinance No. 13 of 2012, which clearly says that “trade fairs should be conducted for a period not exceeding 15 days…” On some occasions, lawmakers are just like us who need to review Arithmetic.
HRAB said the Christmas bazaar “aims to raise funds for the visit of some 24 Miss Universe candidates and their assistants next year,” as the once in a lifetime visit to this resort city costs over P30 M.  
The project is under HRAB and Anthony De Leon (ADL), GM of the Baguio Country Club, and the trade fair is supposed to be an activity counterpart by the city. The Melvin Jones bazaar would rent out 738 stalls P70, 868.56 per stall. That is a collected amount of more than P52 M in a month’s time, no sweat.
Check your calculators… P52 M collection minus P30 M expenses. Now, into whose pocket will the P20 M loose change go? Again, we are reminded that the organizers of the yearly Panagbenga have yet to show the people of Baguio a public audit.
For hard-nosed businessmen, the idea is very good. Imagine in so short a time, one is able to collect easy money just because it is backed by a city council resolution. But don’t blink. I may be down when it comes to Arithmetic but I saw who the real and direct beneficiaries are.
They are the 5-star hotels in the city – most especially BCC and CJH where the Miss Universe candidates and hundreds of their aides composed of their managers, immediate relatives and make-up artists would be billeted.    
 A week after the city council approved their resolution allowing HRAB at Melvin Jones, businesswoman Elen Lao restrained the holding of the trade fair and filed for an injunction.
Fortunately, Judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera of Regional Trial Court Branch 6 granted both petitions that stopped the proposed Christmas Bazaar. Imagine the smiles that stopped radiating and the long faces of the proponents, thanks to Elen Lao.
We, the public are the losers. Elen Lao argued that the public and the residents of Baguio would be deprived of the use of the park. She said that Melvin Jones football field is a public place that is maintained with peoples’ taxes and the revenue that is collected from its operation “becomes public funds, where the disbursement is imbued with public interest.”
In addition, other businesses in the city may lose business opportunities due to unfair competition as a result of the conduct of the Christmas bazaar. Imagine 738 stall operators who do not have to exert extra effort or wait in line to process business permits.
All they have to do is pay the HRAB P70,868 then sell their wares. What is expected is that even before the traders finish the month, they will claim that they were unable to recoup their capital and request for an extension.
If that is tolerated as they always are, then goodbye Melvin Jones. We will see the trade fair go through Panagbenga, until the summer rains come.
The grassy football grounds, the only free space and environment that the public can enjoy, will be as muddy as the Christmas bazaar organizers’ minds. And its repair will be paid by peoples’ taxes because it is doubtful if the organizers will pay for it.   
Certainly, as Petitioner Elen Lao pointed out, Burnham Park is a public place and cannot be used for the benefit of a private entity such as HRAB. That does not need to be said over and over again because that is common sense, unless the organizers have none of that.
The HRAB argued that petitioner Elen Lao is in no position to oppose the project even as a taxpayer because “no public fund will be disbursed to be used in the event and nobody will benefit from the activity,” hence it is not covered by the city ordinance.
Tell that to the marines! It was Mayor Domogan himself who clarified that the “bazaar is a city-led activity to augment the funds needed for the upcoming Miss Universe.” Hence, there are public funds to be used in the Miss Universe candidates’ visit.
It was clear in Judge Itliong-Rivera’s decision that the bazaar violated EO 695 because it was not approved by the Secretary of Tourism and revenues and collections from the specific use of Burnham Park shall accrue to the treasury of the city.
The money shall first be used for the operation, management and maintenance of the Park and any net profit not needed for management, operation and maintenance of Burnham Park shall be shared equally by the City and the PTA, the court decision added.
Even Vice-Mayor Ed Bilog said the Melvin Jones bazaar violates the trade fair ordinance and other national laws. He said further, the grant of the petition is not only for the protection of the laws and ordinances but for the parks and the environment.

What is more interesting in the ruling is that part which stated: “First and foremost, it is the Sangguniang Panglungsod who passed the trade fair ordinance. They must be the first to uphold it. Second, if ‘rare opportunity’ can be a ground to disregard the law, there would be disorder.”


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