Cebu News

Mahiga folk file injunction case

- Rene U. Borromeo ug Mylen Manto -

CEBU, Philippines - Residents of Mahiga Creek that will be affected by the clearing operations of the city filed a case for injunction with prayer for the issuance of preliminary and temporary restraining order to stop the City of Cebu from demolishing their homes.

The case was filed with the help of the Pagtambayayong Foundation headed by Francisco ‘Bimbo’ Fernandez, who once served as city administrator.

The other petitioners of the case are Gemma Malinay, Roselyn Jabedo, Eduardo Cuambot, Estrella Maraba, Rea Remetio, Elbetha Caube, Angelito Miego, and Hermecijie Pabilic.

Named respondents of the case are the City of Cebu, Mayor Michael Rama, Special Squatters Prevention Elimination and Encroach-ment Division (SPEED) head Noel Artes, and Alvin Santillana and Harold Alcontin both members of Cebu City Risk Reduction Management Coordinating Council.

Petitioners said what the respondents did to them was carried out in absolute violation of the constitutional guarantees and safeguards regarding forced evictions.

“It would be shown clearly that the invasion of the respondents of the rights of the petitioners and some 2,000 affected families under the Constitution Republic Act 7279 or The Urban Development and Housing Act and DILG Memorandum Circular is material and substantial,” petition reads.

The petitioners said they have been living in the Mahiga Creek for past 20 years and claimed they are qualified beneficiaries of the socialized housing program under R.A. 7279.

They said Rama refused to provide any relocation or financial assistance to them.

“Heartlessly, respondents took the law into their own hands and rashly demolished the houses in San Isidro, Mabolo, Cebu City without the benefit of any hearing or consultation,” they added.

Moreover, petitioners said during the May 9 demolition, it was the start of the massive demolitions and evictions which will be carried out soon.

“Petitioners herein are being actually threatened and in fact are being threatened with unlawful demolitions and evictions,” the petition added.

They said it was clear that the respondents threatened them after the latter sent a backhoe to the demolition site immediately after executing the demolition at San Isidro, Mabolo, Cebu City.

“This is a blatant violation of paragraph (f) Section 28 of R.A. 7279 which clearly provides that in effecting demolition and eviction heavy equipments shall not be used except for permanent structures and concrete houses and the petitioner’s houses are not made of concrete materials,” petitioners said.

Petitioners then asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction or permanent injunction to protect their constitutional and statutory rights.

They added what the respondents did causing them sleepless nights and health hazards.

Petitioners then asked the court to give “meaning to social justice.”

Meanwhile, last week the Mahiga residents filed a complaint against Rama over the demolition before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

There was consultation

Mayor Rama strongly denied the allegations of Cebu City South District Rep. Tomas R. Osmeña that his administration did not conduct consultations with the affected informal settlers in Mahiga Creek before he ordered the demolition of their illegal structures.

Rama even furnished the reporters copies of Osmeña’s demolition order dated September 2, 2008 directing the Squatters Prevention Encroachment Elimination Division (SPEED) to destroy the 32 houses that were built along the Mahiga Creek.

The demolition, however, was postponed for several times after Osmeña granted the request of Mabolo barangay captain Rey Ompoc. It was not implemented until the term of Osmeña ended on June 30 last year.

Rama explained that he assumed that Osmeña had also conducted series of consultations with the same families whose houses were cleared by the City Hall personnel along Mahiga Creek two weeks ago.

But Rama, through the personnel of the SPEED, had also conducted another consultation with the affected families and requested them to vacate the place which is considered “danger zone,” particularly during heavy rains.

Rama has been criminally and adminis-tratively charged before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for allegedly violating the provisions of the Urban Development and Housing Act and for not complying with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s memorandum circular requiring consultation first with the affected residents before destroying their houses.

In yesterday morning’s regular flag-raising cere-mony at the City Hall, Rama told City Hall personnel that Osmeña’s announcement that he had stopped caring for the urban poor is not accurate.

Rama said his move of clearing the illegal structures of the urban poor from the creek, including those that are constructed within the three-meter easement, is a way to protect the lives of these informal settlers and to prevent floods that may affect hundreds of other residents.

The mayor also distributed copies of a memorandum circular issued by DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo last January 31 that ordered all local chief executives to remove illegal structures from danger zones.

Robredo’s order said “Tolerating informal settlements to build up along “esteros,” creeks, waterways, riverbanks and shorelines and resulting into the unregulated discharge of domestic wastes into such water systems is a violation of this mandate.”

It added that “Allowing, through inaction, the conversion of these danger areas for residential purposes implies providing the opportunity for a continuing unrestricted assault on the integrity of the fresh water or coastal ecosystem.”

Division for the Welfare and Urban Poor (DWUP) head Collin Rosell said the city offered the affected urban poor families a relocation site in barangay San Jose as DWUP personnel already distributed copies of application letters to them, but until yesterday no one of them had submitted back the applications with the requirements.

City Administrator Jose Mari Poblete explained that Rama just offered relocation sites rather than cash assistance because of the past experience that the urban poor families just pocketed the amount and they did not vacate their locations.

Artes told The FREEMAN that the City Hall records showed that the city had spent close to P1 million when it gave financial assistance to urban poor families who are living the creek or beside the creek, but 91 families of them just remain in the area.

“Relocation site ray atong ihatag kay kon kwarta ibulsa lang unya,” Poblete said.

 Osmeña had promised to give P5,000 to each of the urban poor families affected of the ongoing demolition even if they are not from the south district.

Rama said he just inherited the problem from the previous adminis-trations who failed to stop the construction of illegal structures in creeks and other danger areas. “Kagabii (Sunday night) kusug kaayong uwan, kon diha pa sila basin og nabanlas na sila sa baha,” the mayor said. (FREEMAN)

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