Conversion of Doña Pepang cemetery into a park OK’d

FORMER Cebu City mayor and south district congressman Tomas Osmeña lost again in his bid to stop the City Government from converting Doña Pepang Cemetery into a public park.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 9 dismissed the motion for reconsideration that Osmeña filed, after the court in November 2014 denied his request for a 20-day temporary restraining order against the project.

City Hall officials welcomed the ruling, saying there is no longer any legal impediment to proceed with the project. They added that the structures of some 40 families in front of the cemetery will soon be cleared to pave the way for the project.

In a decision dated July 20, Judge Alexander Acosta denied Osmeña’s motion for reconsideration, for lack of merit.

“There is no basis, in fact or in law, that would warrant a reexamination, much less, the modification or reversal of the subject order dated Nov. 28, 2014,” he said.

Judge Acosta has also disallowed other petitioners from intervening as complainants in the case. The would-be petitioners include those whose houses will be affected by the project.

Under Rule 19 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the judge pointed out, “the court shall consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and whether or not the intervenor’s right may be fully protected in separate proceedings.”

No copy

The judge also denied Osmeña’s motion for reconsideration because it lacked one requirement. He said that Osmeña failed to attach a certified true copy of the order issued by Mayor Michael Rama, which he believed was ultra vires (beyond the mayor’s powers).

A motion that questions an order, judgment or resolution must attach a certified true copy of it, under Section 2, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Procedure, the judge explained.

Sun.Star Cebu tried to get a statement from Osmeña about the court’s decision yesterday but he declined, saying he has not received a copy of it yet.

Mayor Rama, in an interview, commended the City Legal Office for successfully defending the City in this case.

“If you look back, it was not even me signing that matter with the Roman Catholic Church. It was my predecessor. I don’t find any reason why the court would not take cognizance of a very important document and a very important intention,” he said.

He referred to a letter that Osmeña, who was then mayor, sent in 2008 to then Archbishop of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, where Osmeña sought the donation of cemetery property, saying the City planned to develop it into a “beautiful park”.

Exchange

In 2011, the City Council passed a resolution authorizing Rama, who was first elected mayor in May 2010, to sign the deed of exchange for the property.

The City has agreed to swap a property in Barangay Pasil for the cemetery owned by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cebu, which has a land area of 9,282 square meters.

In October 2011, the City and the archbishop signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the exchange of the two properties.

In November last year, the City closed the cemetery to pave the way for its conversion.

Osmeña, though, filed a case in court, saying that Rama should respect the rights of those whose relatives and loved ones are buried in the cemetery.

The cemetery houses the Osmeña Mausoleum, resting place of the late senator Sergio Osmeña Jr., Osmeña’s father, and the late first lady Estefania “Doña Pepang” Veloso Osmeña, wife of the late president and Cebu’s “grand old man” Sergio Osmeña Sr.

Now that the case has already been dismissed, Rama said the conversion of the cemetery should push through.

“We will definitely be pursuing it. It will be good for the City of Cebu, having been declared as an Asean City of Culture,” he said.

Plans

As to the families that will be affected, Rama said they will be handled by the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP).

DWUP chief Atty. Collin Rosell, in a separate interview yesterday, said notices will be sent to the families asking them to vacate the area. A relocation site has already been set aside for them in Barangay Lorega.

Rosell said, though, that the DWUP will still screen the affected families and determine if they are really marginalized, before they can avail themselves of the City’s socialized housing program.

Based on the proposed plan for the conversion of the cemetery, the Osmeña Mausoleum will be retained.

At the back of the mausoleum, a park will be developed and a mini-amphitheater will be constructed. A columbary, which will house the urns that contain the ashes of the dead, will also be built.

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