City to BFP: Go or get sued-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has ordered the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 7 to vacate within 15 days their building in Barangay Pahina Central so it can be fully converted as the temporary Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) site.
However, BFP 7 Director Ma. Luisa Hadjula said they cannot “surrender” the whole area because it serves as the command center for Central Visayas, with an estimated six million people depending on it for their safety from fires.
She pointed out the BFP has given up some 75 percent of its space to accommodate patients from the CCMC. Why, she asked, should the mayor treat the agency’s personnel like informal settlers?
Mayor Rama, however, said the City Government will file a case against the BFP if the agency refuses to heed his order.
Rama wants the BFP compound, including its building, parking area and sports complex, as the temporary hospital.
The 7.2 magnitude quake that hit Central Visayas last Oct. 15 weakened the hospital’s structure.
The quake has damaged an estimated P2.2 billion worth of public infrastructure, including hospitals, bridges and schools. The national disaster council also reported that the quake killed 222 persons, injured 796 and displaced some 370,000 persons in Bohol from their homes.
Last Oct. 22, Rama sent a one-page demand letter that asked BFP to vacate the lot and building within 15 days after receiving the notice.
Hadjula received the letter on Oct. 25, which means that the 15-day notice will lapse on Nov. 9.
In his letter, the mayor invoked Section 455 of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines, which allows local governments to carry out “emergency measures as may be necessary during and in the aftermath of man-made and natural disasters and calamities.”
The entire city has already been declared under a state of calamity following the Oct. 15 earthquake.
Rama also said that Lot No. 2-B (7598-F and 7598), where the fire station presently stands, belongs to the City.
“In view of the recent natural calamity, the City intends to use the lot as an emergency relocation site for the CCMC. The said lot is the most preferable relocation site with regards to its proximity to the damaged hospital and easy accessibility at N. Bacalso Ave.,” he said.
In his letter, the mayor said: “May I rely on your cooperation and response, on the simple, time-honored principle that the welfare of the people is the supreme law?”
But on Oct. 24, a day before receiving the mayor’s demand letter, Hadjula already sent a letter telling Rama that the BFP 7 can’t vacate their building and transfer to the Cebu City Sports Center.
“Relocation of the office would disenfranchise almost six million people who are being served by the BFP. A sudden transfer, without proper coordination and preparation, especially in terms of the communications equipment, would put the lives and properties of Central Visayas susceptible to danger,” she said.
Hadjula also said that the BFP owns the lot where the fire station stands. She said it was transferred to them without interest by the Philippine Constabulary Integrated National Police way back in 1984.
Despite claiming lot ownership, Hadjula said, they still accommodated the patients from CCMC following the earthquake and have voluntarily vacated 75 percent of their area.
While she acknowledged the duties and powers of the chief executive, Hadjula invoked the Constitution’s provision that states “no person can be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law.”
“In our case, the BFP as an entity cannot and should not be deprived of its property without due process of law. An act contrary to this would be an illegal act. Any issue relating to this should be settler lawfully in the court,” she said.
“We are of the opinion that we are being treated far less than informal settlers, a fate that is unfair to the men and women who are in service with the duty to save lives and property. We have done our part of the sacrifice. It is time that we stand for the benefit of the home of the men and women in service,” she said.
In his regular news conference yesterday, Rama said he will file a case against BFP if it insists on staying. The matter will be handled by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, who is a lawyer like him.
“Gahi silag ulo (They are being bull-headed). We will bring this to the court and let’s see how the court will resolve the matter. We are under a state of calamity,” he said.
Rama pointed out that the use of the BFP building by the CCMC will be temporary.
In a separate interview yesterday, Labella said the City will file a case for unlawful detainer or ejectment against BFP if the bureau refuses to leave within 15 days.
“The City owns the lot, which means that BFP’s occupancy in the area is mere tolerance. Now that the City needs it, the City can demand and the City can enforce its right and its interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, Acting City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas yesterday said that the P103 million unexpended balance from the 2012 calamity fund cannot be used by the City to build a new CCMC, contrary to what the City Council believes.
Cuevas said the fund has already been earmarked to pay obligations of the City’s Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
If the council wants the money to be used for the rebuilding of the city hospital, Cuevas said the money should be realigned or reprogrammed.
Also yesterday, the council in its regular session passed five resolutions that seek to make the city better prepared for earthquakes.
They asked the executive department to acquire insurance for all City-owned buildings, require the Local School Board and the Department of Education to provide two access stairways on each floor of schools, and require them to conduct regular earthquake drills, among others.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 31, 2013.