Condo residents ask Mayor Baste’s intervention on their issue with DMCI
Aya Bansuan Guinomla

Condo residents ask Mayor Baste’s intervention on their issue with DMCI

A FEW months after two earthquakes struck Davao City, residents of a prestigious condominium are crying for help calling on government agencies and the Davao City mayor to intervene in their clamor for action from the management on the damages caused by these quakes to their residences.

Catalina Paglangan, a unit owner at the Belvedere Tower of Verdon Parc, revealed that she, along with her neighbors asked for help from the local government unit (LGU) of Davao City between November 17, 2023, and December 2, 2023. She said that they have exhausted all of the means for DMCI homes to take action. 

“Tanan na government agencies among na adtuan, gitawagan ang DMCI pero hangtod karon wala gyud sila nagpakabana (We already went to all the government agencies and we call on for DMCI since they did not take responsibility),” she said.

Inappropriate retrofitting

Engr. George Taganahaw, one of the engineers on the technical team of the unit owners, said that there were 2,024 residential units, of which 700 were owned or rented. He said that DMCI and their structural engineering consultant were quick to say that the December 2023 earthquake caused no structural damage.

“We were with them in the site inspection, but they say they have inspected all in their certification, but in actuality, we only went to two buildings, and there were no inspections made inside the unit because the units were locked and not accessible,” he said.

Taganahaw added that the management continued to downplay the extent of the damage in their permit application, saying that the repair would only cost P1.5 million and would be finished in 10 days or two weeks. 

He stressed that they also informed the Office of the Building Official (Ocbo) about retrofitting the Belvedere building since there were no specifications on what the management would be repairing. The DMCI certification stated that the repair should be on block walls, but Taganahaw said the management was repairing the shear walls.

“Walang [no] procedure, walang [no] protocol, no inspection, no tests kami lang tumingin so everytime we see something significant we report it to Ocbo, we submit five reports to Ocbo and we had three meetings with the personnel,” he said. 

Taganahaw requested Belvedere's drawing plans since they found anomalies in the building. He said that a few columns and beams do not match, and in Belvedere alone, there are 50 beams or columns that do not conform to the design or the reinforcement of the design.  

He added that the structural engineers' preliminary reports regarding the beams and undersized columns were already submitted to Ocbo on February 8, 2024, and then they had a hearing with the housing committee.  

Structural engineer Chris Servida, a technical team member, suggested that the building be rechecked thoroughly, additional lateral supports be added, and the facade from the exit be repaired after it was damaged by the earthquake. He said this could be done if they also followed Ocbo's suggestion.

Also, the technical team has been filing complaints on the enhancement repairs in the Belvedere building without permits or any approved methodology. 

No action from the management

Atty. Kirstin dela Cruz, the lawyer of some of the affected unit owners, told the media that after the December 2, 2023 earthquake, the Belvedere building was yellow-tagged by Ocbo and was the only condominium in the city that was heavily affected by the earthquake. She said that the residents and tenants of the condo, including herself, were forced to vacate the building two days after the incident. 

“Most were traumatized, especially those who were there when the quake happened, but all were left with no choice but to leave since the building is no longer safe for occupancy and has suffered structural damages,” she said.

Dela Cruz stressed that from December 2023 until May 2024, the management has yet to provide any assistance for the affected residents. She revealed that although the management had provided them with a P10,000 cash assistance it included a waiver saying that the DMCI has already refunded its tenants and residents. This means that if the residents would accept the P10,000 they could no longer claim further damages because of the waiver and that they could no longer file a case against the management.

She said that her clients demand a refund and compensation for their displacement after they were forced to evacuate from their condos. For those who want to stay, they demand that DMCI conduct proper retrofitting to make sure that the building is safe for occupation. 

Caught in a bind

Dela Cruz said that they are in the process of filing a case; however, they do not have any supporting documents for their claims. She emphasized that they cannot just file a case without any documents since the case requires a technical report and that both Taganahaw and Servida were forced to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with DMCI, hence their difficulty in acquiring the needed documents for the unit owners to file a case against the management. 

She added that they had already requested Ocbo to release the reports of the technical engineers since they were submitted to their office, but she was denied because the request “violated the Data Privacy Act.” Their team then asked for a certified true copy of the report, but their requests were still denied. They will only be allowed if the DMCI would also allow it, together with the consent of the City Legal Office, so their team can get a hold of the documents.

During the committee hearing on March 8, 2024, the committee directed DMCI to counter Servida's NDA so the affected unit owners could get a copy of his report from Ocbo. However, since the meeting, until this day, no letter or document has reached Dela Cruz. 

“We are likely hostage because we cannot have any supporting documents to attach to our complaints, but definitely we will get there. We will use other means if we cannot get that,” she said. RGP

SunStar Publishing Inc.