EXPLAINER: 5 councilors grilled him, VM Rama played bad-cop-good-cop. Still he didn't sing about hospital waste. Now they sic police on Abay-Abay. Abay-abay who?

·4 min read

WHAT LED TO KONFRONTASI. Following a complaint sent to Cebu City Councilor Edu Rama, a team from Cebu City Hall's Probe and DENR found hospital waste and other hazardous material on the junkyard run by Ronald "Abay-abay" Villaber. Villaber's business is buying and selling junk and hauling garbage for a fee.

On the recent incident, they gave Villaber a citation ticket, then a cease-and-desist order with an order to explain, preparatory to the possible filing of a criminal complaint.

That wasn't enough for Councilors Rama and Phillip Zafra.

Rama, who used to work with the executive department on the garbage problem, knows about Villaber's scrapes on the garbage ordinances. When Zafra was barangay captain of Tisa, he had encounters with Villaber on similar violations.

Thus the special session Thursday, July 8, where the City Council guests were led by Villaber, which ended up with the Sanggunian voting en masse to have the police and DENR investigate and prosecute Villaber "immediately."

FIRST, WHAT SANGGUNIAN LEARNED. With the Villaber incident as start-off point, the councilors knew bigger problems in the city, from other resource persons, such as:

[1] The company authorized to transport, store and dispose of hospital wastes and other hazardous materials is still to be issued a renewal of its permit to operate and yet could be doing some jobs even though it still lacked papers for the year.

[2] Hospitals and other producers of hazardous wastes have to use unauthorized firms or individuals (like Villaber) to haul away their trash or they store them at their premises.

WHAT CITY COUNCIL WANTED. The Sanggunian wanted Villaber to identify the owner of the hospital wastes and where the trash had gone after they disappeared from Villaber's junkyard in Inayawan.

The City Council was denied both, by Villaber and by two hired persons who had to be fetched from Inayawan only for each to say, "Wala ko kahibalo." The boss didn't know; neither the hired help.

Villaber admitted he knew it was hospital wastes that were picked up and dumped at his junkyard site in Inayawan. But he said he didn't know where they came from, the hospital wastes were mixed with other materials he had picked up. He didn't know the driver of the truck that collected the wastes.

GRILLING, ENTICEMENT. Councilor Joel Garganera, cold and almost menacing in tone, said the person who holds or keeps the garbage owns the garbage, he cannot say that other people own it. "Don't waste our time listening to your lies." Councilor Eugeno Gabuya Jr. told Villaber in his face, "You have no permit for transporting hospital waste and other hazardous materials." Councilor Raul Alcoseba said, "There are photos showing hospital wastes in your truck and you don't know whose garbage they are."

VM Rama, from his podium, used the police line, like, “We don't want to be your enemy. But if you force us to go against you...” “You want to talk with me alone?” as Rama hinted that powerful people may have made people like Villaber behave as he does.

Councilor Zafra summed up the product of their joint efforts when he ended his questioning of Villaber in exasperation, "Por bida! Pagka-bright!"

But Villaber must not be brilliant enough to become a politician like his inquisitors. Villaber ran for barangay councilman of Labangon and city councilor and lost resoundingly.

GARBAGE BOY AT 9. Ronald Villaber, 48, married with seven children, is from Calidngan, Carcar City. At age 9, as garbage scavenger, he started earning money to put himself through elementary until fourth-year high school. He has not given up since then. He bought and sold scrap but has never left garbage: he hauled it away for money.

An April 8, 2011 article by Junrey Nadela in SunStar Superbalita Cebu titled "Grasya sa basura" says Villaber also worked with his grandfather at a shop making plowshares, the blade that cuts the top layer of soil, and boat anchor. "Nakab-ot ko ang idlas nga edukasyon ug panginabuhi," Nadela quoted Villaber.

Why the nickname "Abay-abay"? "Abay" or "bay" suggests friend, pal, or being close to others. Villaber said he has been a friend who stays close ("nakigsandurot") to scavengers and other people who earn a living from garbage.

But Villaber has to stop violating the law. Transporting the hospital wastes and dumping them at his junkyard in Inayawan violate multiple regulations: Allegedly -- he had no license to haul, store and/or dispose hazardous waste, or any garbage for that matter. His vehicle had no special registration. His dumping site was not accredited. And the violations expose public health to a lot of risk.

And the "honorable" members of the "august" legislature tire easily in playing polis-polis. That's why, on mass motion, they've called the real police.

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