SOME 70 ambulant vendors outside the Cebu South Bus Terminal cried harassment and accused Cebu City Hall personnel of being abusive and violent when apprehending them.

At one point, Rocelyn Tanguilan said, three men from the City’s Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification Enhancement (Probe) team held her forcefully down to the ground, “like I was a drug suspect.”

This allegedly happened last June 14 when Probe cleared the sidewalk outside the terminal on N. Bacalso Ave.

Another member of the United Small Vendors of Cebu City was allegedly handcuffed before the pens and hair accessories she sold were confiscated.

Probe personnel allegedly confiscated the vendors’ goods and intentionally stepped on them before hauling the wares into trucks.

“Some were smiling while we begged them not to destroy our merchandise. We’re not criminals. We weren’t selling shabu. We weren’t selling anything illegal. In fact, we had not paid for the merchandise,” an emotional Tanguilan said in Cebuano.

The group called for a press conference yesterday on the eve of their appearance before the City Council, where they will raise their complaints against Probe.

“No vending” policy

In an interview yesterday, Probe Chief Raquel Arce denied the vendors’ allegations and said it was the council that requested her office to act on the complaints of pedestrians and motorists regarding ambulant vendors who obstruct the sidewalk.

“Those are all lies. There would be no issue here if only they heeded the ‘no vending’ policy in that area. Why will they insist on selling on a very narrow and busy sidewalk and put pedestrians at risk?” Arce told reporters yesterday.

She said City Hall received a complaint from a woman who was nearly run over by a vehicle. The lady was forced to walk on the road because vendors occupied the sidewalk.

She said the Probe team would clear the area whenever there are complaints only for vendors to return a few hours later.

The situation prompted Arce to deploy 12 Probe personnel outside the terminal every day in two shifts.

Although this costs the City money for the personnel’s salary, she said it is necessary to maintain order in the area.

“We merely responded to the City Council’s request to act on this complaint. We are just doing our job. We are not denying them their livelihood, I even gave them several options on where they can sell,” Arce said.

Loss of income

She said she offered them an area at the Ramos Public Market, or they can choose to sell in Carbon or Pardo Public Market.

But Tanguilan and her fellow vendors refuse to go to these markets because they would only compete with existing vendors and would earn very little compared to what they earn outside the terminal.

She and her husband used to earn P1,000 by selling fruits and other food items in the area. This was enough for their family’s meals and for the needs of their seven children who all go to school.

Now that they are banned from selling outside the terminal, they are forced to roam around the city to sell their goods, and earn only P200 a day.

Tanguilan lamented that their children often miss classes these days because there are times they don’t have money for meals.

Sa pagpaninda diha gawas sa terminal namo napaskwela ug napakaon among mga anak, karon nganong inyo man ming hikawan sa among panginabuhi? Maluoy ka namo, mayor. Ayaw tawn kuhai ug kaugmaon among mga anak (We were able to feed and send our children to school when we could sell outside the terminal. Why are you denying us our livelihood? Have pity on us, mayor. Don’t deprive my children of a good future),” she said.