PILES of wood, torn down structures, scattered nails, detached roofs and residents trying to cope with the situation are what’s left of a community populated by members of the Valdehueza Tree Farmers Association (VTFA) in Barangay Indahag after their houses were demolished on Thursday.
Aside from the grief they felt from losing their home and property, the residents claim that the demolition was unlawful.
This settlement in lower Sumpong was raided on June 5 by police who arrested eight individuals accused of illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions, explosives, and marijuana.
One of those arrested was Maldwyn Valdehueza, the VTFA head who claimed ownership of the 97-hectare land occupied by the association.
In an earlier report, Valdehueza said that the illegal items found in their houses might have been planted to justify the driving them out of the area and giving opportunity to demolish their dwellings, which happened after they have been detained.
No court order to demolish
Rey Beja, a resident of the settlement, said there was no court order presented when the demolition team arrived in the area.
Since there was no court order, some occupants resisted the demolition team believed to be sent by another claimant identified by residents as
Dr. Serina Rañises-Emano.
Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro tried to get Rañises-Emano’s side for this story, but failed.
The houses in the settlement measured 8 by 10 feet, said Bobby Alberta, a resident there.
Alberta also said that the materials used in building their houses came as Sendong assistance.
Pastor Hermie Dominguez, one of those who helped the residents, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that they tried to seek the intervention of the Indahag barangay council during the demolition and for a temporary shelter for the night to those homes were demolished, but was declined and no other help came from the council.
Sun.Star tried to seek the side of the Indahag barangay officials, but also failed to reach them.
The disputed land
The VTFA is a residential area and organization registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It has a total area of 973,697 square meters.
Beja said the land was sold before to Rañises-Emano but that Valdehueza, from Carmen, Agusan del Norte, claimed it and he did not know that it was already purchased.
Rañises-Emano then opposed the claims and charged Valdehueza in court.
Inday (not her real name), told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that Valdehueza does have a title certificate for the land.
When Valdehueza’s parents’ died, he discovered that they left him a land in Indahag.
A lawyer published in the newspaper that the land should be returned to Valdehuezas being the heirs.
Valdehueza checked the civil registry and took all the necessary documents to back his claim on the land.
Inday, however, said that the land had been through three owners already and the most recent owner is Rañises-Emano.
Valdehueza petitioned that the land be returned to them, having also the support of the residents to award the land through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
“For Valdehueza to have enough force to claim the land, they composed the association,” Inday said.
Grace (not her real name), another resident of the association, said they were invited by Valdehueza to the association to build a home there with the promise that if they win the petition, he will give each family a 200-square-meter lot.
She and her family moved in to the compound in September 2013.
Inday said most of those who decided to live in the VTFA compound wanted a safe home, especially after Typhoon Sendong devastated her family’s residence.
The association has a fee of P500 for membership and a monthly due of P100 that later on became P280 for the guard hired to watch over the compound, said Beja.
Grace said there are about 300 members of the association.
Other parties who claimed the land were reported to be harassing the residents in the area, said Grace.
Since then, Valdehueza has been scouting and staying in the place to guard it.
“We didn’t come and live here by our own. We were invited to live here properly,” she said.
Some of the residents were unsure whether Valdehueza has been engaging in criminal acts or not because of the alleged firearms found in his house.
However, “We could not say that he is a bad person (Valdehueza). We joined him because we trust him,” Grace said.
Police Senior Inspector Evan Viñas, station commander of Agora police station and team leader of the group that conducted the search operation at the VTFA compound, said his station carried out the raid because the informants were confident in giving him the tip about the illegal arms.
“Unya ako gitagaan pagtagad ug nag-coordinate nalang ko PS2 ug nagpa-backup,” he said in a text message sent to Sun.Star.
When asked about details of the demolition, he said he could not comment about it.
According to Republic Act 7279 or Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, a notice of at least 30 days before the scheduled date of eviction or demolition should be given.
However, Grace claimed: “Nakasabot ra man ang mga tao if there is [an] order for demolition. Pero gahapon man lang gud gi-release and order. Insigeda kaayo.”
As the members of the demolition team were wrecking her house, Grace suddenly cut her interview with Sun.Star to tell members of the team to spare the wood of her house and not chop it into pieces so she could at least sell them.
“Half of our belongings were gone. We could have been ready if the demolition was announced earlier,” she added.
Couple Alberta and Franklin Gallana, from Barangay Consolacion, were living under the Marcos bridge with a small store before Typhoon Sendong struck. Despite being Sendong survivors, they were not relocated and chose instead to move in the VTFA compound for a place to live.
Now that they lost a home for the second time, the Gallanas are thinking of moving back to Consolacion and maybe live under the bridge again.
“Na-discourage na ko kay sila ang nag-guba. Gibali-bali and kahoy. Gipikas-pikas ang plywood nga gihatag atong Sendong. Ako na lang tana ang nag-guba sa akong balay (I was disheartened because they were the ones who demolished our home. They chopped the wood. The plywood were cut into pieces. These were donated after Sendong. I should have been the one who demolished it),” Alberta said.