Carvajal: ‘Paminawa ang katawhan’

·3 min read

Cebu City’s top dogs make plans for the city without consulting people, without asking them how the plans might impact their lives. And when the latter, after realizing what is happening, voice their reservations and, in fairness, also their suggestions, the top dogs resort to intimidation to push their top-heavy plans through.

This is what happened in the Carbon Public Market. Cebu City officials planned to modernize (good!) and privatize (bad!) it without any prior consultation (atrocious!) with stakeholders. They have since demolished stalls without adequate provision for relocation, resulting in 50 to 80 percent reduction, if not complete stoppage, of vendor sales. A dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the lives of vendors as City Hall fails (refuses?) to come out with the new market’s floor plan showing assigned stalls.

This is also what is happening now in Cebu City’s river banks. A reliable source has heard Mayor Mike Rama give instructions to Councilor Gerry Carillo to issue demolition orders to all 14,000 owners of houses built within the three-meter easement zones.

Mayor Rama’s plan to develop Carbon is good. And so is taking residents out of harm’s way from oncoming floods. But as in Carbon where the stakeholders were never consulted, demolishing houses in easement zones without proper planning and consultation with stakeholders violates people’s rights to be heard and have a say on matters affecting their welfare.

As a result, affected residents are having sleepless nights not because of flash floods but because the “rumored” demolition of their houses is messing up their minds with all kinds of worry and anxiety.

At a forum aptly dubbed “Paminawa ang Katawhan (Listen to the People)” of representatives of the 14,000, the worry and anxiety came clearly through with questions such as: Is it true? When will our houses be demolished? Will there be a relocation site and where? How much financial aid, if any, will we get? Or will we just be dismissed with a lump sum amount and left to our own devices to find a place where to locate ourselves?

As Mayor Rama could very well sense these are valid questions that cannot be ignored because we are dealing here with sacred (yes, sacred, in case we have forgotten) human beings not unfeeling beasts like chickens or pigs that can just be shooed away.

So called “rich squatters” are clearly the exception. These should be made to leave summarily on their account. But the bulk of people living in river easement zones are flirting with danger not because they want it but because it’s the only place they can have a roof over their heads.

Be that as it may, they remain as human as human can be and need to be treated with as much respect as any human being deserves. The least City Hall can do as a matter of respect is face them and listen to them. Please, mayor and councilors, “Paminawa ang Katawhan.” By the way, what is so difficult about that?