Use of multiple dummies a rampant practice in City Market, POSD says

Daryll Longid, deputy head of the Public Order and Safety Division (POSD), disclosed to the Baguio City Council last Monday that a number of personalities are in possession of numerous stalls in the public market.

Allegedly, some of these stalls are named under dummy accounts. These dummies are real people used by scrupulous individuals to keep control over multiple stalls in the market. Longid said these stalls are being rented out or subleased at unreasonably high rental rates.

This practice violates certain provisions of Baguio City’s Market Code (Tax Ordinance No. 2000-01).

Section 146 of the market code states that it is illegal to manage more than one stall.

Moreover, Sections 157 and 160 of the market code categorically state that the leaseholder shall physically or personally conduct business in the stall subject of the lease and that the leaseholder shall not sell, lease, or transfer to other individuals their leasehold rights nor permit others to conduct business therein.

Section 161 likewise prohibits the sub-leasing of stalls and the use of dummies.

Investigations conducted by the POSD revealed that there are numerous lease violations in the public market.

In an interview after the council session, Longid claimed that subleasing and other illegal forms of occupation of stalls in the market have become pervasive because they have been tolerated for too long.

“These illegal activities must be put to a stop. The city government must address them head-on,” he stated.

He added that, while there are some leaseholders who sublease their stalls individually, there are several personalities who do it on a large scale.

“These personalities victimize small vendors who are left with no choice but to agree with higher rental rates that can go as high as 2,000%. For the longest time, they have made hundreds of market stalls as their milking cow where they are actually earning millions,” he explained.

According to him, these personalities are hell-bent on discrediting the efforts of the POSD in exposing these illegal activities.

Acknowledging the prevalence of illegal practices in the city market, the city council enacted a market amnesty program in 2021 (Ordinance 86-2021).

Under the ordinance, a three-month amnesty program 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 market code.

The actual occupant of the stall may apply for the amnesty program. If the application is approved, the leasehold rights would be transferred to them.

The applicant shall submit an affidavit stating in detail the circumstances of the occupation with attached pertinent documents evidencing the transfer. The registered leaseholder is given 15 days to reply and contest the allegations of the occupant. After an investigation conducted by a technical working group, the Baguio City Market Authority shall adjudicate the stall either in favor of the leaseholder or the occupant.

Longid said some occupants of these stalls being subleased expressed their intention to apply for the market amnesty. However, they are being threatened by the personalities managing the dummy accounts.

“These people have resorted to intimidation and disinformation. This has forced some vendors to withdraw their amnesty applications,” he stated.

He said investigations will continue and results will be submitted to the City Legal Office for their information and for the filing of cases as necessary.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan underscored that both parties (the registered leaseholder and the actual occupant), are both at equal fault. He stressed that the ordinance is fair and does not favor the occupant.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda mentioned that the registered leaseholder is given due process in the investigation.

The three-month period for the filing of application for the market amnesty ended on February 2, 2022. However, a resolution was passed by the city council and signed by Mayor Benjamin Magalong extending the period of filing of application for two more months. The city council requested the City Treasury Office to submit a detailed inventory of the stalls in the city market, including the history of those with controversial claims, in aid of legislation. –Jordan G. Habbiling with a report from Daryll Longid