Please spare 93-1 occupants-A A +A
Sunday, August 19, 2012
THE lot where my father Tiyong decided to build a house for his growing family after renting a house in Waling-Waling St. for years was wedged between the back portion of the TB Pavillon compound in B. Rodriguez Ext. and a land owned by a Chinese businessman who ran a rubber footwear firm. That land is in turn adjacent to the Aznar Coliseum compound.
The back portion of the TB Pavillon compound was a vacant lot that a caretaker planted with corn and had several tamarind trees inside. Corn was also what the caretaker, Noy Quintin, chose to plant in the barb wire-fenced land of the Chinese businessman. Uppere Sitio Kawayan, which our place was later known, was thus, in the old days, a village between two corn fields.
We started permanently residing in Sitio Kawayan when I was in Grade 2. In the few years prior to that, we lived in Argao, which was among the southern towns where my father, a salesman of a multinational soft drinks firm, was assigned to. That was until he met an accident while driving a softdrinks truck and almost lost his life.
He underwent a leg joint surgery in a Cebu City hospital and was hospitalized for several months. So we went back to Sitio Kawayan.
The sitio had by then become a tough neighborhood, its population growing with the entry of rural folks taking their chances in the city. I don’t know how the lots were divided and subdivided as the number of homeowners grew, but soon every vacant space had structures built in them. When TB Pavillon closed, settlers also appropriated the corn field for themselves.
We didn’t own titles to the lots. We referred to the space we occupied as our “pwesto” that some enterprising homeowners sold to others, after which they look for another “pwesto.” We were “squatters,” which in a politically correct world are being referred to as informal settlers. Then city mayor Tomas Osmena sought to correct the setup by including our village in the city’s housing program, giving us a chance to fully own the lots where our houses stood.
The process has been slow and in the later years, got derailed when some of the Rallos heirs claimed ownership to a portion of our sitio, including the lot where our original place of abode is located. Threats of eviction have since then hounded us.
I therefore know how it feels to be occupants of province-owned lots placed under the ambit of Provincial Ordinance 93-1. Lot ownership is a serious concern and the prospect of being evicted a continuing nightmare. It’s a kapit-sa-patalim situation for many, especially for those who have nowhere else to go. It’s just unfortunate that some local politicians miss this point, insisting instead on toying with the informal settlers’ future.
The initiative emenating from the Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) controlled Cebu City Council is but the latest of these politicians’ obnoxious acts. Just when the impasse was broken through the brokering of Vice President Jejomar Binay of the Housing and Urban Development Council, the city council is muddling the issue by making some 93-1 occupants believe in the logic of a long dead land swap proposal.
How BOPK-allied city councilors, some of them gaining a seat on the issue of their supposed desire to protect the interests of informal settlers, are able to do this is beyond me. This muddling of the issue is a clearly partisan act. If these politicians have any humanity left in their hearts, here’s my plea: please spare the informal settlers from your scheming.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 20, 2012.