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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Court’s order arrives too late to help UP Cebu

FOR three days, the Cebu City Government cannot re-block a state university’s property that a fire struck on the day after Christmas in Barangay Lahug.

But a City official said that the re-blocking was already done.

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Soliver Peras issued yesterday a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) that will protect a 2,000-square-meter lot owned by the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu.

Peras, also the Cebu City RTC executive judge, issued the restraining order three days after UP Cebu filed a case in court last Jan. 8.

Lawyer Liza Corro, UP Cebu dean, filed the complaint against Acting Mayor Edgar Labella and two other City Hall officials, and asked the court to issue the TRO and a writ of preliminary injunction against City Hall officials and “all other persons claiming authority from them.”

Apart from Labella, also named defendants to the suit were City Administrator Lucelle Mercado and lawyer Collin Rosell, chief of the city’s Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor.

Any attempt to re-block the property or rebuild “illegal structures (will) lead to the permanent or long-term deprivation of the university of its property,” read the petition prepared by lawyers Ricardo Ribo, Francis Michael Abad, and Rene Abecede, Jr., on behalf of UP Cebu.

A portion of the property in Sitio Avocado in Barangay Lahug had been donated by the Cebu Provincial Government to UP Cebu, which plans to construct a high school building on the property.

In the case documents, Dean Corro asserted that the university has a “clear legal right” over Lot 31166, and that the City should not stop UP from using its property or allow anyone else to occupy it.

“It should be the City Government who should respect and uphold the ownership of the university as it is obliged by law to enforce the law, instead of violating it,” Corro said in the petition.

UP asked the court to prevent Cebu City officials from, among others, entering the premises or distributing the lot to the informal settlers.

Sought for comment, lawyer Jerone Castillo said there is no need for a restraining order because re-blocking has been completed.

“With all due respect to the honorable judge, if the order was for the re-blocking, there’s no need for it because the action has already been done,” said the head of the Cebu City Legal Office.

Castillo has yet to receive a copy of the order, though.

Rosell pointed out it is not the City that is rebuilding the houses, but the residents themselves are doing so.

“What we did is just disaster response, helping the affected families,” he added.

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