ON the first day of the novena mass for the feast of Sto. Niño, at least five vendors outside the basilica lost some 300 religious icons to a Cebu City Hall team that started a crackdown on erring vendors.

The items were confiscated last Thursday afternoon, after a team from the Squatters Prevention and Encroachment Elimination Division (Speed) chanced upon vendors displaying their wares on the road.

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City Hall urban poor consultant Gerry Mar-quez said Mayor Tomas Osmeña gave orders to clear the streets of vendors in time for the Sinulog to help ease congestion, especially near the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

He said they specifically warned stall owners outside the basilica to keep their items inside the stalls, but some displayed them on wooden pushcarts they parked on the road.

Along D. Jakosalem St., stall owners have displayed their items beyond the steel railings, obstructing traffic in the area.

“We informed them of the mayor’s orders to confiscate the wares of vendors causing traffic obstruction. They went beyond the railings so we had to seize their wares yesterday,” Marquez said.

Esti Tolizon, one of the stall owners, appealed to the Speed team to return their items because she had to borrow P10,000 as capital for the icons.

The vendors lamented that the Sinulog gives them a means of livelihood, but they lost their chance of making money as they have nothing else to sell.

“Muhangyo lang unta ko nga makuha namo ug balik kay giutang pa gyud to nako ang P10,000 nga gipuhunan. Karon ra unta ang panahon nga makakwarta mi (I’m appealing to the City Government to return our wares since I had to borrow P10,000 as capital for my business. This is our chance to make money),” Tolizon said in a CCTN TV report.

Marquez assured that the items will be returned to the vendors but only after the Sinulog festivities, to make sure the vendors will not return to the streets to sell them.

He asked the Speed team to conduct an inventory of all the confiscated items and to identify its owners, so these can be properly accounted for.

“We will return the items to them after the Hubo (Jan. 22).

That’s the mayor’s instruction,” Marquez said in Cebuano.

He warned other vendors to keep off the streets, as their operations will continue until after the Sinulog, particularly in major streets downtown.(LCR)