200 Apas homes torn down; Capitol to help residents

RESIDENTS occupying Lot 937 in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas, Cebu City, were not able to stop this time the court-ordered demolition of almost 200 houses Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

More than 300 police personnel escorted the demolition team, which was met with initial resistance from the residents who installed a human barricade to prevent the clearing crew from entering the area.

On the same day, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia clarified that Lot 937 is not owned by the Provincial Government but that Capitol would help its affected residents.

Last Oct. 13, Sheriff Edilberto Suarin was supposed to implement the demolition order, but City Hall officials led by Mayor Michael Rama intervened, leading to its postponement.

On Thursday, the residents could only watch and do nothing as their houses were pounded and destroyed by the demolition team.

According to Suarin, the residents were given more than enough time to leave the area since the writ of demolition was first released by the court in 2010.

Based on the writ of demolition, a certain Mariano Godinez acted as the plaintiff or the claimant of the 4.6-hectare lot.

Anne Martel, one of the homeowners association officers, said the sheriff did not follow due process in the implementation of the demolition.

Martel also said no pre-demolition conference was conducted which barred government agencies from informing the residents of the services that they can avail of once the demolition will be conducted.

An appeal for issuance of status quo ante-order is also pending in the Supreme Court, said Martel.

“Now where is the rule of law? If we are to follow the rule of law, they should wait for the resolution of the pending court motions filed by the homeowners association and Solicitor General,” said Martel.

City’s role

Lawyer Collin Rosell, executive secretary of Rama, told reporters that the City Government can no longer intervene with the demolition since only a temporary restraining order from the court can suspend the activity.

“The role of the City Government is not really to involve itself deeply in the case but to help the homeless and underprivileged to be clear on where they will go from here,” said Rosell.

Rosell added that the City Government will provide financial assistance of at least P10,000 to every affected family.

Teofilo Rosaroso Jr. of the city’s Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, said there are enough relocation sites in the city but it is up to the affected families whether they will avail of this.

“The City has 400 available relocation sites all over the city. The only problem is that the housing sites are scattered,” said Rosaroso.

Some of the residents would not avail of the relocation sites because they could be too small or too far from their workplace, he said.

Rosaroso further said the City’s medium-rise buildings in Barangay Lorega-San Miguel could be used as a temporary housing unit for some of the affected families.

The city’s Department of Social Welfare and Services will also distribute food packs to the residents, he said.

Province to help

Lot 937 is not owned by the Provincial Government.

“Wa mi labot ana. Di na apil sa Camp Lapu-Lapu... Dili ni (Lot 937) apil sa 16 lots nga na turn over,” Garcia said. (The Province has nothing to do with that. It’s not part of Camp Lapu-Lapu... It’s not included in the 16 lots that were turned over to the Province.)

What the Capitol owns, Garcia said, is the 80-hectare property occupied by Camp Lapu-Lapu, the headquarters of the Visayas Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in Barangay Apas.

The Department of National Defense turned over the titles of an initial 17.5 hectares covering 16 lots of this property to the Cebu Provincial Government last October after their own nearly 20-year legal battle over the property. The Capitol had worked to reclaim the property, which it had donated to the military in 1959, following violations by the military of the provisions of the donation.

Garcia said she will honor the deal entered into by the previous administration and the Cebu City Government that set aside at least 8,000 square meters of the Provincial Government’s property in the area for affected residents of Lot 937.

“So I look at the agreement and I said: ‘Well, we will honor this agreement. However, since the Province was not there when the resettlement site was identified, I propose we conduct another survey to identify it... What I want is to put them in areas that are already populated so they won’t be spread out. There are areas in the 16 lots that were returned to the Province that are not occupied. And we would wish to set that aside so as not to hamper development there. We will put them as close as possible to existing houses so they can be grouped together. That way we will have some zoning,” Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

She also hit back at people who continue to spread unverified claims that the Capitol is selling land to large and private corporations and businesses.

According to her, since she returned as governor in 2019, the Capitol has been trying to recover its properties and having these reappraised.

“It’s like they’re accusing me of selling when everybody knows I don’t sell. Since when did I sell Capitol properties? I don’t even donate. I recover properties,” she said in Cebuano.

Garcia was Cebu governor from 2004-2013.

Demolition team

More than 300 police personnel were deployed to ensure the peaceful and safe demolition of the houses Thursday, of whom 90 percent were members of the Civil Disturbance Management team.

Police Regional Office 7 Director Roderick Agustus Alba said most of the police personnel deployed to the area had no firearms.

Cebu City Police Office Director Ireneo Dalogdog said some residents resisted the demolition Thursday, but the sheriff was able to explain to them what happened, resulting in the easing of tensions. (PJB, BBT / LMY)