Against the city, fire victims: UP to sue over lot

(The Freeman) - January 4, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Lawyers of the University of the Philippines Cebu College are contemplating filing charges to stop fire victims from rebuilding their homes at the fire-stricken area in Sitio Avocado, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, this according to UP Cebu Dean Liza Corro in a press conference yesterday.

Corro said the case will be filed within the week since residents are now starting to construct their houses.

“We will have to do it legally and so we will be going to go to court to ask for a TRO (temporary restraining order) and ask for injunction nga dili mag-apil-apil ang city government sa property which is owned by us and dili mag gamit og city government resources which is not owned by them,” she told reporters.

She said the school will only utilize 2,000 square meters of the 4,000 square meter fire-stricken area for its expansion.

She earlier said in 2013 a P65-million building for the UP High School was already awarded. In 2014, another P13-million extension building and a P4.5-million building for the high school were awarded. In 2015, another P10-million building project was awarded.

“All of these buildings cannot be constructed because we don’t have access to this area, the only way for us to be able to construct this is to have an access from that side where the fire was,” she said.

Even before the fire, Corro said the school has been asking for access to the area since it will be used for the construction of their building.

“This is an educational institution and as an educational institution we provide excellent education for our students. In fact, not only excellent education but we provide very cheap tuition fee and for those who are really poor students,” she said.

“When we provide education, we improve the lives of these students, who avail of our services, when we provide them education, we are able to help them from going out poverty or getting beyond poverty, that is the mandate of the UP. We are not to provide housing facilities,” she added.

Not heartless

Corro said the university cannot help it but be passionate with what they say.

“I stand for UP Cebu, no one else will be thinking for the interest of UP Cebu except me and us in UP Cebu. They will be thinking of their interest especially nga ting-abot na ang eleksyon. I can understand that pero dili nato isakripisyo ang kahimtang ug ang welfare sa mga tawo, that’s the most important thing here,” she said.

She said UP Cebu administration is not heartless.

“I’m saying that we are not heartless people, UP has always been pro-poor that’s why we are here to help alleviate the poverty of people,” she said.

She said another case may be filed against City Hall officials for allegedly stealing their tents last Sunday.

“They already re-blocked our lot providing an 8-meter wide road and two meter wide smaller roads in between houses. Can you imagine that? We, as the owner of the lot our rights has been trampled, we had lost any right or authority over our property. Yesterday (January 3) was the worst time for us, we sent in an additional tent inside the property. The city police blocked us and told us that we cannot bring them there because there’s supposed to be a status quo,” she said.

She said UP has two tents in the area while the city government has three.

“But around afternoon when the DWUP came in together with the PROBE team and conveniently the city police were no longer around, they threaten our people, these are my utility men together with our guards,” she said, alleging PROBE team eventually took their tents.

“They did snatch them are there was a little bit of commotion because our people and them nagbinunotay sa mga tents, and again Atty. Collin Rosell (head of DWUP) threatened my people and told them hasta mo karon apil mo sa amoang pangdakpon and of course we are outnumbered and they brought our tents and we don’t know where are they and we have it blottered,” she said.

She said the city government should assist UP Cebu in relocating the fire victims since it is the long term plan for the informal settlers.

“Don’t even think that UP would take care of this because our mandate is education and it is not our mandate to provide housing facilities but we already provided the relocation site and all I am asking from the city government is to fix the place,” she said.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said the city government will stand firm that the residents can rebuild their houses in the fire-stricken area.

“Inig kahuman og sunog unya dili nimo pabalikon, that will set a bad precedent,” he said.

When asked on the plan of the university to sue, suspended Mayor Michael Rama said the city government is no longer afraid of any charges.

“Anad kaayo mi og kaso, di na mao ang solution. Di ang kaso ang solution, ang solution kung gusto gyud lingkod after mapahimutang aron nga mag iyahay og paminaw,” he said as he visited the fire site yesterday.

No sides

Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent Rey Lyndon Lawas, chief of the Regional Directorial Staff of the Police Regional Office-7, said their presence at the fire site is only to maintain the peace and order and not to take sides.

In fact, he said both the Cebu City government and the university requested for police presence in the area to avoid any untoward incidents.

He said Corro called him requesting police presence at the fire site and he instructed Senior Superintendent Marciano Batiancela Jr., acting chief of the Cebu City Police Office, to deploy personnel in the area. Batiancela reported to him that the Cebu City government also required for police to be deployed in the area.

“So basically, both parties requested. It’s not to protect each other but to be in the middle, which is really the role of the police nga malikayan nato nga naa’y kagubot,” said Lawas.

Last Sunday, policemen from the Regional Public Safety Battallion-7 were also deployed to beef up security at the area.

Lawas said this is also in response to some complaints that CCPO personnel are “one-sided”. He said Batiancela denied it saying he only instructed his men to only maintain peace and order at the area.

He said the policemen were instructed to only observe the behavior of the both parties at an area near enough to respond to any possible commotion.

Lawas said the UP-Cebu also deployed security guards at the area to protect their property and if policemen can see that the guards can still handle the fire victims, then they are not allowed to intervene in the situation.

“Police may only come in if the people may become unruly,” said Lawas, which is basically to avoid any commotion between the two parties, “ang amo ra gyud is sa pag-maintain sa kalinaw. No more, no less.”

Meeting yields no results

 Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III hopes the dispute will be settled soon. He noted that the province has already set aside one to two hectares in Barangay Busay as a relocation sites for fire victims.

However, he said the memorandum of agreement on the utilization of the site is still in its draft form and they have yet to discuss on the issue of developing the area.

“If the City Government (Cebu) is willing to help in relocating to Busay, that would be most welcome,” he said.

A two-hour meeting was also held in the Governor’s Conference Room at the Capitol yesterday afternoon among Cebu City Hall, Capitol, and UP representatives but no agreement was reached as Corro failed to attend. — Jean Marvette A. Demecillo, Ma. Fatima R. Secuya, Michael Vencynth H. Braga and Angelica R. Libodlibod /BRP

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