by Jane B. Cadalig
An earlier case filed against a group and the city government for allowing the use of Melvin Jones for an aborted fund raising activity is now threatening city officials from acting on a request to temporarily close roads at Burnham Park for Panagbenga-related activities.
The city council on Monday deferred any action on the request of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. for the closure of Juan Luna and Lake Drives for the staging of the month-long trade fair Baguio Blooms, one of the events of Panagbenga.
The move came even with the assurance of City Legal Officer Melchor Rabanes that the city council is allowed by the Local Government Code to order temporary closure of roads.
“The council is not violating any law if it grants the request. I do not see any impediment provided the requisites of the Local Government Code are complied with,” he said.
Despite allowing the closure of Juan Luna and Lake Drives for the Baguio Blooms in the previous years, members of the city council became cautious in granting the BFFFI’s request this year, raising fears of similar legal backlash suffered by the supposed bazaar organized by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio at the Melvin Jones grounds last year.
The fund raising activity at Melvin Jones was cancelled after businesswoman Ellen Lao filed a case against HRAB and was acted upon by a Baguio court in her favor.
The event aimed to raise funds for the city’s hosting of the Miss Universe candidates on Jan. 18.
Rabanes said the city council has been passing ordinances temporarily closing said roads at Burnham in the past years and has not been sued for doing such.
“The city council has been passing ordinances in the past, closing the roads and it was not sued for doing so,” Rabanes said.
Vice Mayor Edison Bilog and Councilor Mylen Yaranon said the city council is just being careful because it does not want a repeat of the incident last year.
The Local Government Code provides that no roads should be ordered closed for the holding of events, such as festivals, that are not officially sponsored or sanctioned by local government units.
Panagbenga is an institutionalized event of the city government and BFFFI in partnership with the private sector.
In the previous holdings of festivity, Juan Luna and Lake drives at Burnham Park and Session Road are ordered closed for the Baguio Blooms, formerly known as the Market Encounter, and Session Road in Bloom, respectively.