“I CHALLENGE the court, the sheriff and the owners of the private lot to file charges against me. I will fight back.”
This was how Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña answered comments, mostly on social media, that he may have gone overboard during his confrontation with Court Sheriff El Cid Caballes last Wednesday.
Caballes earned the mayor’s ire after he reportedly insisted on demolishing the houses on a government lot in Sitio Sta. Cruz, Barangay Capitol Site, and for his alleged disrespect to authority.
A video of the confrontation was uploaded on Facebook by Eric Amaro, a reporter for Bombo Radyo.
As of 3:30 p.m. yesterday, the video already gained 279,000 views and 2,200 mixed reactions.
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 the sheriff and more than 100 residents of the sitio.
Caballes was the sheriff tasked to implement a court-ordered demolition.
Based on the court order, what was subjected 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 (DENR), dated Sept. 10, 2015, stated that the property is “alienable and disposable.”
Because of this, the families sought Osmeña’s intervention.
Caballes arrived in the area at past 2 p.m. last Wednesday and was seen trying to shake the mayor’s hand, but he was rebuffed.
Osmeña then grabbed the sheriff’s ID and shirt collar.
The mayor warned the sheriff not to do anything in the area until the latter has presented a copy of the technical description of the area subject for demolition.
In his news conference yesterday, Osmeña said he expected the backlash from some netizens following his rift with Caballes.
“I expect that kind of reaction but that’s beside the point. There’s a very anomalous, if not fraudulent, attempt to steal land because the demolition order was made to include government property. That’s why he could not give a technical description,” Osmeña said. He stood pat that he was just defending government property and protecting the residents from a suspected land-grabber.
He added that he has been monitoring the case for over a year now, following reports of an attempt at land-grabbing.
“When I tell all the facts of this case, you will see how many people will be implicated from the judiciary to the DENR. There’s more than what meets the eye. File contempt, but they’ll be the ones going to jail, not me,” he said.
Caballes, in a separate interview, said he will not take any legal action against Osmeña.
Caballes said that what the demolition team did was a mere “clearing operation” of structures based on the court order.
Caballes, who returned to work after taking a day off, said that he understood Osmeña’s reaction, believing the mayor might have been misinformed by the village officials about the real issue.
Caballes maintained that he was just doing his duties to enforce the court order and that he has no personal interest in the property.
But lawyer Cornelio Mercado said that the enforcement of court order by the sheriff must not be interfered with “regardless of who is the LGU (local government unit) official.”
“Bring your arguments to the issuing court. The Local Government Code conferred no authority on LGU officials to summarily enjoin the sheriff by posting legal arguments,” said Mercado. (RTF/GMD)