Espinoza: Evicting government facilities?

·3 min read

Today reminds us (of course, I’m referring to those who were born in the ‘50s and earlier) of the day of martial law’s (ML) declaration (Sept. 21, 1972) during the rule of the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. I was in second year college when it happened that I had to go back to my hometown in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur. After the 1986 bloodless revolt, ML is now history.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, Cebu’s media opened its yearly celebration of the Cebu Press Freedom Week, which is observed on the week wherein the date of ML’s declaration falls.

The press freedom week celebration here serves as a reminder to the younger generation that this freedom would be suppressed if a despot rises to power. What must be celebrated on Sept. 21 is the Cebu Press Freedom Day, and any attempt to revise the ML history must be thwarted.

Many suspect that there will be a celebration on Sept. 21 after the election of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of Marcos Sr., who was dubbed the strongman of Southeast Asia during his time in power.

The 30th Cebu Press Freedom Week also coincides with the Philippine National Law Week. It was Marcos Sr. who declared Sept. 19 of every year as Law Day in 1975. Then President Fidel Ramos declared in 1995 the third week of September of every year as the Philippine National Law Week.

During my term as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter’s president in 1999, we celebrated Law Week at the same time with the Cebu Press Freedom Week even though we had different celebration themes.

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Land ownership is not only a thorny issue between or among private landowners, but also with government entities. I thought I missed something when I read the news that the Cebu Provincial Government made a demand to the heads of Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital, the Department of Health-Treatment and Rehabilitation Center and a barangay hall located in Barangay Jagobiao, Mandaue City to vacate the lots they’re occupying.

I don’t think that Capitol is in dire need of these lots covering 255,540 square meters in land area because it has several other properties that are perhaps open and not occupied by important government offices like the facilities that I have mentioned. If I may overstretch my imagination, I only wish that this Capitol’s move has nothing to do with Mandaue City’s purchase of the idle Cebu International Convention Center. “According to the Provincial Legal Office, the Provincial Government is the ‘lawful owner’ of the land, which has an area of 255,540 square meters or 25.554 hectares,” SunStar Cebu reported.

It’s just sad to know that even these government agencies built their edifices without knowing the rightful landowner. Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia reportedly only came to know that these lots belong to Capitol in 2019. These lots are reportedly part of the friar lands that the Archdiocese of Cebu donated to the Province in 1930.

Granting that the Province validly owns these lots, does it have to evict these government offices that are serving not only the Mandauehanons but practically the entire Cebu and the neighboring provinces?

The employees of these government facilities could only hope that Governor Garcia would donate these lots. They are asking for the help of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes. Knowing the temperament of Governor Garcia, I don’t think (I wish I’m wrong) Mayor Cortes could make any difference.

Perhaps, if the heads of the government buildings occupying the Capitol-claimed lots would agree to Capitol’s proposal—that if they have no objection that the Provincial Government owned these lots, the argument would end. The governor would instead allow them to stay as tenants at an agreed rental rate. The governor may be feisty in her governance, but I know she has a big heart to help those in need.