EXCEPT for the time when then Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) head Raquel Arce was tasked to guard the Doña Pepang Cemetery, there has been no security personnel tasked to guard the area to prevent illegal structures and informal settlers.
Now, the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) has to relocate the owners of 37 houses living in the cemetery to a lot in Barangay Quiot.
Arce and DWUP head lawyer Ronald Anthony Librando have blamed the absence of security guards and a perimeter fence as reasons why informal settlers were able to easily construct their houses.
Ramil Ayuman, special assistant to Mayor Michael Rama, said in an interview on March 30, 2023, that two security guards will soon be assigned in the cemetery after the area is cleared to ensure that there will be no more illegal structures in the area.
A fence will also be installed to establish the entry points to the cemetery, which straddles the barangays of Carreta and Tejero.
Ayuman said DWUP will meet with the affected settlers to explain to them the plans of the City.
Librando, in a phone interview Thursday, said the mayor is serious about his plans to convert the cemetery into a heritage park.
Owners of the illegal structures are given only until April 4 to vacate the place.
In a separate interview, current Probe head Grace Luardo said she hoped that the informal settlers will vacate the place before the clearing operation will be conducted on April 4.
“They were already informed (about the project). Hopefully, they will follow,” said Luardo.
Arce, who was assigned by former mayor Tomas Osmeña to work as a night shift security guard in Doña Pepang Cemetery in July 2016, said Thursday that there has been no security personnel assigned to guard the place since then.
“There have been no guards assigned to the place, except when I was assigned there,” said Arce.
Arce was head of Probe during Osmeña’s term before she resigned. She was eventually assigned to guard the cemetery for five months.
A SunStar Cebu report in July 2016 stated that around 40 families were affected by the clearing operation conducted that year.
Previous articles by SunStar also reported that demolition of some houses happened in 2015.
Doña Pepang Cemetery, where the late first lady Estefania “Doña Pepang” Osmeña was buried, will be developed into a heritage park.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama first moved to close the cemetery to begin converting it into a heritage park in 2014.
However, his plan was shelved when he lost to Osmeña in the 2016 elections.
Ayuman said the official name of the heritage park will still go through a deliberation by the city’s Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission.
The cemetery lot became the property of the City Government through a land swap. The City swapped its property in Barangay Pasil with the cemetery lot owned by the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Cebu City Architect Eleazar Lipang said the proposed heritage park will feature a mini amphitheater and a green and open space.
The old architecture of mausoleums in the cemetery will be preserved and beautified to highlight them, he said.