AT LEAST 168 families in Barangay Apas, Cebu City stand to lose their homes after a Cebu City judge ordered them to vacate a government-owned lot they have been occupying for about 50 years.

Judge Olegario Sarmiento Jr., acting presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 9, has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Four Roses Neighborhood Association, Inc. in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas.

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The association had sought to stop the implementation of a writ of execu-tion, which told them to leave Lot 937.

In his two-page order dated July 29, Judge Sarmiento told the association and all other occupants of Lot 937 to leave within three days after receiving the order.

That deadline lapses today.

Lawyer Chevin Vasquez, clerk of court of RTC Branch 9, gave lawyers for both parties a notice of order dated July 29.

But Rameses Villagonzalo, counsel for Four Roses Association, said Judge Sarmiento’s order is “erroneous, illegal and in excess of jurisdiction.”

“We will challenge the denial at the higher courts depending on the consensus of (the) members,” Villagonzalo told Sun.Star Cebu. “Nothing is final in an illegal order because it is void.”

The residents, through Villagonzalo, have filed a petition for prohibition with the Court of Appeals (CA), against Branch 9 court sheriff Antonio Bellones and Mariano Godinez, the lot’s claimant.

They asked for a restraining order.

Bellones first presented the writ of execution dated March 5, 2010 to the occupants of the lot on March 23. 

However, the residents alleged that the respondents “acted in bad faith” when they ordered them to vacate the property.

The petitioners said at least 168 families have been living in the contested property since 1960. When they decided to occupy the lot, they believed the government had already expropriated it.

They said the lot was identified as a socialized housing site under Resolution 99-4771 of the Cebu City Council on June 30, 1999. 

However, Judge Sarmiento ruled that the decisions of the court on April 18, 2002 and Feb. 9, 2008 were upheld with finality by the appellate court.

In its ruling, the CA recognized Godinez as the “absolute and exclusive owner of Lot 937, with all the attributes and accessory rights of an absolute owner.”

The appellate court said all improvements or constructions built by the residents “are tainted with bad faith and under 449 of the New Civil Code are forfeited in favor of the plaintiff.”

Judge Sarmiento said that members of the Four Roses Association must abide by the final judgment because they are considered “trespassers” or squatters” on Lot 937.

He said the petition cannot stop the implementation of a writ of demolition, unless the CA issues a restraining order.

Judge Sarmiento ordered the court sheriff to enforce the writ of demolition if the residents fail or refuse to comply with his order. (GMD)