THERE is a serious question posed by Councilor Mylen Yaranon on the act of Mayor Benjie granting to SM the Original Proponent Status (OPS) to redevelop the public market of Baguio. The good councilor asserts that the procedure in granting SM the unsolicited proposal status by Mayor Benjie did not comply with the law which states that it is only the Public-Private Partnership for the Initial Selection Committee (P4-SC) which can recommend to the mayor who should be granted the OPS. As the facts would appear, Mayor Benjie granted to SM the OPS status upon the recommendation of an “Ad Hoc Committee”, which the good mayor himself created.
A review of the events would show that last year, Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC) presented to the city council an unsolicited proposal to redevelop the public market. About a week later, SM also submitted its UP to the city council. The proposals were submitted to the city council for evaluation. Thereafter, it recommended to the Office of the Mayor, to grant RLC the status of OPS. Mayor Benjie then created an Ad Hoc Technical Working Group to evaluate not only the proposal of RLC but also that of SM.
The evaluation and recommendation of the Ad Hoc Technical Working Group was then the basis for Mayor Benjie not only to reject Robinson’s proposal but also to accept SM’s proposal.
It is the position of Councilor Yaranon that under the law, the city mayor is only empowered to either accept or reject the recommendation of the P4-SC. The mayor cannot make his own recommendation and then approve it. It is only the P4-SC but not an Ad Hoc Technical Working Group that can recommend such to the mayor.
Upon Councilor Yaranon’s initiative, the city council sought the opinion of the Public-Private Partnership Center on the issue. Sec. Ferdinand Pecson, executive director of the Center replied to the city council stating that only the P4-SC could make a recommendation to the city mayor as to which entity should be granted the Original Proponent Status (OPS) and not an Ad Hoc Committee created by the mayor. He further wrote that while the use of an Ad Hoc Committee to evaluate the recommendation of the P4-SC is a prerogative of the mayor, under the law, it is only the P4-SC that is vested with the authority to evaluate an OPS and to make a recommendation for the acceptance of the proposal to the mayor.
There was only one recommendation that the P4-SC had submitted to Mayor Benjie and that was the recommendation to accept the proposal of Robinson’s(RLC). While the P4-SC did vote on who between Robinson or SM should be given the OPS, its memorandum did not contain a comparison of the advantages and benefits of the two proposals, which could have given the mayor the authority to accept the unsolicited proposal that was complete and provided the greater advantage and benefit to the community and revenues to the city.
It is only then that the mayor could create an Ad Hoc Committee to guide him in his decision, but not when there is no such recommendation or comparison of the advantages and benefits of the two proposals coming from the P4-SC, which has the vested right to do so under the law.
Unless this issue raised by Councilor Mylen is not satisfactorily resolved, the on-going “negotiations” between SM and the city, may go nowhere. And a waste of time and resources. As the saying goes, “haste makes waste”.
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It seems that the RCC Global Entertainment’s proposal to operate electronic and traditional bingo and other games authorized by the PAGCOR, is also not going anywhere or by this time, the city council would have already rejected it. If not acted upon yet, then the public will understand. Election is just around the corner. The public hearing on the proposal was well-attended by many civic groups opposed to it. Mayor Benjie also seems cold to the proposal because the proponents did not appear.
Not so long ago we read the news of a raid on gambling dens in the city. We were surprised because we had been told that under the new administration, gambling operations stopped, especially with this present COVID-19 pandemic. We will not be surprised then that jueteng operations have not actually ceased. Ask your barber and they will agree.
Sometime ago, I watched the 2013 movie “RUNNER RUNNER” which was about gambling. The movie started with a premise that “everyone gambles. They may call it something like ‘stock market’ or ‘real estate’, but make no mistake, if you’re risking something, you’re gambling.”
So gambling is here to stay. You wanna bet?