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Monday, August 26, 2019

Mayor-sheriff rift

“I WILL run after you for the rest of your life.”

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña was overheard in a video uploaded on Facebook by Eric Amaro, a reporter for radio Bombo Radyo.

At the start of the four-minute clip, Osmeña looked like he was in a foul mood, while Capitol Site Barangay Captain Manuel Guanzon gave him an overview of the brewing conflict between Court Sheriff El Cid Caballes and more than 100 residents of Sitio Sta. Cruz.

Caballes is the sheriff tasked to implement a court-ordered demolition in the area.

Based on the court order, what was subject for clearing was only Lot 6085-A-1, which was previously owned by the heirs of a certain Mauricio Quijada before it was reportedly bought by a private firm. The property has a total land area of 9,642 square meters (sq. m.).

However, Caballes allegedly ordered his men to include in the demolition structures that were built on the lot owned by the National Government. The property is around 4,728 sq. m and has an estimated land value of P200 million.

A certification issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, dated Sept. 10, 2015, states that the property is “alienable and disposable,” meaning it is owned by the government.

Because of this, the families sought Osmeña’s intervention.

Among those was Fe Vergara, whose family has been living in the area for the past 40 years.

The 64-year-old dentist and her husband Matranillo called the attention of the barangay after the houses of their neighbors were destroyed.

Matranillo, president of the Capitol Site Public Domain Homeowners Association, said some of their neighbors were paid P180,000 after their houses were demolished.

Caballes also allegedly failed to show Guanzon a copy of the technical description of the property subject for clearing when the village chief first attempted to settle the dispute.

“He was headstrong and did not listen to me. In fact, he even ordered his men to take down the tents of the barangay. He has no respect for authority, not even the barangay captain. That’s why I’m grateful that the mayor intervened because without him, we would have hundreds of arbitrarily displaced families,” Guanzon told reporters yesterday.

‘Just following orders’

Before leaving for Manila last Wednesday, Osmeña went to the area at 2 p.m.

Minutes later, Caballes arrived in the area and was seen trying to shake the mayor’s hand only to be rebuffed.

Osmeña then grabbed the sheriff’s ID and shirt collar.

Cabelles earned the mayor’s ire after he reportedly insisted on demolishing the houses on the government lot and for his alleged disrespect to authority.

At the height of the confrontation, residents could be heard cheering Osmeña on after the mayor demanded that he be given a copy of the technical description.

“You, listen to me. You’re only up to the Quijada property. You know that. I’ll run after you for the rest of your life. Sukol ka? Isog man daw ka,” the mayor said.

In response, Caballes appealed to the mayor, saying he was just doing his job.

He could be heard repeatedly saying, “Wa ko’y gibuhat. I’m just following orders.”

The mayor warned the sheriff not to do anything in the area until the latter has presented a copy of the technical description.

“Do not do anything until you give me a technical description. I’m defending government property and the rights of the people.”

The video has gone viral and as of 7:15 p.m. yesterday, it already gained 170,000 views and 1,500 reactions from netizens.

Sought for comment, Osmeña said he was just protecting the rights of the residents from those who abuse their authority.

“I was asked by Guanzon (to intervene) because he (Caballes) attempted to demolish beyond into government-owned land to benefit a private party and suspected landgrabber,” he told SunStar Cebu in a text message.

Yesterday, the sheriff took the day-off.

Chief Clerk of Courts Jeofrey Joaquino said they are waiting for communication on the implementation of the demolition order.

Executive Judge Gilbert Moises also said that Caballes is mandated to submit his report to the judge who issued the demolition order, including details on his scuffle with the mayor.

Caballes is no stranger to conflict. In 2012, he received a threatening text message relative to the demolition of a 4.6-hectare parcel of land, designated as Lot 937, in Barangay Apas.

The text message he received read: “Dayuna unya ug demolish sa petsa 7 arun mabuak na inyong mga ulo (If you proceed with the demolition on the 7th, we’ll crack your heads open).”

While Caballes said he considers such threats as part of the job, he takes them seriously. (GMD)
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