CEBU

Espinoza: Clear the obstructions now, or be sorry later

Free Zone

THE clearing of illegal structures on sidewalks and roadsides is long overdue. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) anent to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to "return to public use all public roads and sidewalks that have been appropriated for private use" issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 121-2019 on September 19, 2019, directing the mayors of all the local government units (LGUs) to clear within 60 days the illegal structures on the sidewalks and roadsides.

One of the causes of traffic congestion in our roads and streets are the illegal structures, like food vendors, vulcanizing shops and other business activities right on the sidewalk and roadsides because the pedestrians are constrained to walk on the road instead of the sidewalk, thus reducing the width of the road. Worse, the pedestrians endanger their lives and limbs.

The order of the DILG to clear the roads, streets, and sidewalks of illegal structures is not only because President Duterte wants it, but because our laws say so and supported by landmark cases dating back to 1915 in the case of the Municipality of Cavite vs Rojas (30 Phil. 602) and also the case of Muyot vs de la Fuente (G.R. No. L-653448 O.R. 4860) wherein the Supreme Court ruled that the City of Manila could not lease a portion of a public sidewalk on Plaza Sta. Cruz being beyond the commerce of man.

What are properties of public use? The New Civil Code, Article 424 (Article 344 Old Civil Code) states: "Property for public use, in the provinces, cities, and municipalities, consist of the provincial roads, city streets, municipal streets, the squares, fountains, public waters, promenades, and public works for public service paid for by said provinces, cities, or municipalities."

The legal maxim "dura le sed lex" (the law maybe hard, but the law) should be the guide stick for the elected officials and the law enforcement agencies in enforcing the laws. Agreeably, those doing business on the sidewalks/roadsides are only making a living only that they are not in the right place that the LGUs should have prevented them from the start and provided them the appropriate place to vend. If the LGUs' existing public markets are full, then the officials should provide funds and build more public markets.

To recall, several mayors from the different cities and towns were directed to explain why they should not be sanctioned for their failure to comply with the DILG's memo to clear the sidewalks and roadsides of obstructions. The clearing operations were halted because of the Covid-19. Now, the DILG is giving the LGUs until February 15, 2021 to comply and the validation will be done on March 2, 2021.

These sidewalk/roadside vendors are visible from Mandaue City up to Compostela. Worse, the vendors on the sidewalk of the highway were tolerated by the LGUs. The main road from Mandaue City leading to the North in Bogo city is a highway as defined by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that for safety reasons these vendors should have not been allowed.

I believe, however, that regulating the business activities along the highway is not the sole responsibility of the LGUs, but the DPWH also has the obligation to prevent those vendors. Every weekend, the vendors abound on the roadsides of the highway from Consolacion up to Compostela, selling all sorts of items and the motor vehicles of the customers, who care less, park their cars indiscriminately that obstruct the traffic. I wish the Highway Patrol Group could renew their job of policing the highways.


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