51 pending demolitions in Cebu-A A +A
Sunday, March 16, 2014
CEBU CITY – There are 51 cases for demolition under the jurisdiction of the Cebu City Government.
This concerned Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, who chairs the newly created Task Force Land for the Landless.
“We are still collating all the figures but so far we found 51 cases that involve private lots,” Labella told reporters.
This means thousands of families are in danger of losing their homes anytime, like what happened in Barangay Apas where 157 families are about to lose their houses after the court ruled in favor of claimant Aletha Suico-Magat.
The Apas demolition was halted by another court order, but not before six houses were already destroyed last March 6.
Just a week after the Apas demolition, 117 families on J.C. De Veyra St. in Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Carreta are also slated to lose their homes following the writ of demolition issued by the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 6.
The area is said to be owned by one George Giminez.
Another set of 120 families in Barangay Apas are also subjects of another ejectment case filed by Richard Unchuan in 2011.
Vice Mayor Labella said that the City will file motions for intervention in the 50 other cases under the jurisdiction of Cebu City.
Its intervention in the Apas case was denied by the court.
Help from Congress
The incident in Apas has also prompted Councilor Alvin Dizon to ask the House of Representatives, through the committee on housing and urban development chaired by Rep. Alfredo Benitez, to conduct a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation on the conduct of demolitions and evictions of poor families, especially in Metro Manila and Cebu.
“In the ongoing demolition in Apas, Cebu City affecting 157 families, the manner and conduct of the demolition have been questioned by the affected residents. For instance, some of the members of the demolition team do not have proper identification and one member was allegedly caught stealing from one of the destroyed homes,” Dizon’s resolution, approved by the Cebu City Council, read.
Dizon believes it is time to update the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), a law enacted in 1992 to protect the homeless and underprivileged.
It is often wielded in times of demolition.
Labella noted than an important provision of UDHA has been ignored, which is Section 28c-8.
It reads, “In cases of eviction and demolition pursuant to a court order involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, relocation shall be undertaken by the local government unit (LGU) concerned and the National Housing Authority with the assistance of other government agencies within 45 days from service of notice of final judgment by the court, after which period the said order shall be executed.”
“Should relocation not be possible within the said period, financial assistance in the amount equivalent to the prevailing minimum daily wage multiplied by 60 days shall be extended to the affected families by the LGU concerned.”
But an LGU is also governed by procedures on appropriations. Labella lamented that in most cases, the LGU’s participation is too late and providing the financial assistance equivalent to two months of minimum wage would be difficult, considering that this has to be appropriated.
Labella suggested a dialogue between Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and the MTCC executive judge to discuss the matter.
“We respect the separation of powers and we are not trying to encroach on the role of the judiciary, but in light of the provision of the UDHA, it is not that easy to implement. We have to reconcile,” the vice mayor said.
In cases where it is the City Government that implements the clearing of houses, it gives financial assistance of P10,000 per family.
The vice mayor has tasked the City Legal Office, which also has representation in the task force, to look into the status of each of the 50 cases for eviction that are already in court.
Lawyer Janeses Ponce, the presiding officer of the Cebu City Land Management Council (LMC), said the City recognizes the proprietary rights of the owner but the latter should not act as if he or she owns the residents of the property.
“The City Government will always help, that’s a non-issue. But what constrains us is the time. All the time, the City Government will only be involved when there is already an order for demolition,” said Ponce.
Ponce and Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) Chief Collin Rosell manned the command center the City Government put up in Barangay Apas in light of the demolition almost two weeks ago.
Ponce also said that lot owners have a responsibility over their lots. They can’t just claim it years later when there are already occupants and not expect a problem. (JGA of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 16, 2014.