Briones: Championing ‘informal settlers’

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña as the “man of the people.”

From his recent actions, it looks like it’s the image that he wants to project to the public.

I know it’s a far-cry from his previous elitist persona, but there he was last Wednesday afternoon, in Sitio Sta. Cruz, Barangay Capitol Site, protecting the rights of residents squatting on government property.

Oh wait, they’re not called that anymore. I think the politically correct term is “informal settlers.”

Oops. Sorry.

But that was Osmeña’s defense for confronting, no, collaring, literally, Sheriff El Cid Caballes, who could be heard saying that he was just following orders on the video that was uploaded on Facebook.

The latter was there to implement a court-ordered demolition in the area.

The subject for clearing is 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.

But Caballes also allegedly ordered his men to demolish structures on a government lot measuring 4,728 square meters with an estimated land value of P200 million.

Before I continue, let’s get one thing clear, the residents on the government lot are informal settlers.

That’s what the certification issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), dated Sept. 10, 2015, stated anyway. That the property is “alienable and disposable,” meaning it is owned by the government and not by those people living there.

Isn’t it ironic then? That the mayor, in his desire to champion the poor, would, in a text message to SunStar Cebu, justify his intervention by saying that Caballes attempted to demolish beyond into government-owned land “to benefit a private party and suspected land-grabber.”

So, in effect, Osmeña was protecting squatters from a land-grabber?

Where’s the justice in that?

He even challenged the court, the sheriff and the owners of the private lot to sue him.

“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,” Osmeña said.

With this kind of rhetoric, no wonder the mayor was applauded by onlookers and affected residents last Wednesday afternoon.

But it still doesn’t change the fact that there is a court order. And, according to lawyer Cornelio Mercado, its enforcement by the sheriff must not be interfered with “regardless of who is the LGU (local government unit official.”

There’s also the possibility that Caballes raised, that the mayor might have been misinformed by the village officials about the real issue.

If that’s the case, the squatters on Sitio Sta. Cruz might end up having the last laugh at Osmeña’s expense.

Ughh. The things a politician does to be a “man of the people.”
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