Council enacts Amnesty Program to end lease violations in Public Market

The Baguio City Council has approved on third and final reading an ordinance granting an amnesty program that seeks to put an end to various lease violations in the market stalls or booths that are managed by the city government.

Citing the results of investigations conducted by the Public Order and Safety Division (POSD) and the results of the verification done by the City Treasury Office-Market Division, Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda stated that numerous occupants of the market stalls are renting or leasing from the registered leaseholders while some are occupying the stalls due to the death of the leaseholders or by virtue of transfer by sale, mortgage, or waiver.

Such acts are in violation of the city’s Market Code under Tax Ordinance No. 2000-01.

Sections 157 and 160 of the tax ordinance categorically state that the leaseholders shall physically or personally conduct business in the stall subject of the lease. Section 157 further stipulates that the leaseholder shall not sell, lease, or transfer to other individuals nor permit others to conduct business therein. Section 161 likewise prohibits the sub-leasing of stalls and the use of dummies. 

According to the ordinance, any of these violations shall be sufficient for the cancellation of the contract of lease with the city.

Under the ordinance, an amnesty program for a period of three months shall be granted to concerned stall occupants and/or actual leaseholders to rectify or act on their violations. After the said period, all arising violations shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the city’s existing tax ordinance.

For the transfer of leasehold rights, the transferee, upon presenting a Deed of Sale, Waiver of Rights, or acknowledgment by the registered leaseholder of the transfer, shall be issued a Contract of Lease, provided that the transferee is personally or physically conducting business in the stall/booth.

For a stall whose registered leaseholder is already deceased, the compulsory heirs of the deceased person must execute an Extra-Judicial Settlement or Waiver of Rights designating a person (who may not necessarily be a compulsory heir) to be the next registered leaseholder.

For a leaseholder who is sub-leasing or mortgaging their stall or using a dummy, they must terminate this relationship. The leaseholder, with the consent of the other party, may regain occupancy of the stall. Should both parties fail to agree, the Contract of Lease shall be revoked or canceled, and the stall shall be declared vacant.

The Baguio City Market Authority (BCMA) shall conduct a preliminary review of the affidavit and supporting documents of the actual occupant and issue a Notice of Violation to the registered leaseholder, giving the latter 15 days to contest the allegations and evidence of the occupant. The BCMA shall then conduct a full investigation to be completed in not more than 30 days.

Whoever the BCMA decides in favor of, whether the leaseholder or the occupant, the right over the stall shall be granted to them. Any person who is not satisfied with the BCMA’s adjudication of stalls may file an appeal before the city council within 30 days from the date of the issuance of notice of adjudication as provided for in Section 162 of the Tax Ordinance.

The ordinance shall also prescribe the requirements for an actual occupant and the rental rates of a sold/mortgaged stall or a previously sub-leased stall.

A public consultation was held on June 16, 2021 in which the provisions of the ordinance were presented to the market vendors, concerned government offices, and the general public for recommendations.

The amnesty program shall be applicable in the Baguio City Public Market, city-owned satellite markets, and the Slaughterhouse. The council stressed that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the ordinance shall be crafted by the City Mayor’s Office.

In the final version of the ordinance, Tabanda added a provision indicating that Section 160 of the Tax Ordinance No. 2000-01 states that the registered leaseholder shall occupy, administer, and be present personally at their stall/booth, but they may employ helpers including but not limited to their spouse, parents, and children living with them. The persons to be employed as helpers shall, under no circumstances, be persons with whom the leaseholder has any commercial relation or transaction.

During the council’s regular session on July 27, 2021, Mayor Benjamin Magalong told the legislative body that he supports the passage of the said ordinance.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations of the ordinance shall be prepared by the City Mayor’s Office. –Jordan G. Habbiling