Demolition starts

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DESPITE the residents and village officials’ efforts to stop it, the demolition of the structures of 157 families living in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas, Cebu City pushed through yesterday.

A team began tearing down the houses after Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 9 Judge Alexander Acosta and Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 6 Judge Pamela Baring-Uy denied separate motions for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The motions for TRO that the courts denied had been filed by City Hall lawyers and the camp of Ben Militar, who represents at least 39 of the 157 affected families.


Another motion for a TRO was also filed yesterday before the RTC by Feliciano Payot, the legal counsel of majority of the affected families, but the court has yet to act on it.

Around 2 p.m., a demolition team hired by Aletha Suico-Magat started to tear down the houses. Suico-Magat is the owner of the property where the families live.

The team dismantled two of the 157 structures, in the presence of 50 policemen and 15 members of the Special Weapons and Tactics team, who were there to ensure the demolition stayed peaceful.

Tension rose once the demolition team started to knock down the houses, since the residents tried to stop them, considering the court has not acted yet on the motion filed by Atty. Payot.

To appease the crowd, Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman went to the site and met with court sheriff Edilberto Suarin and some of the demolition team.

He appealed to them to stop the demolition, considering also that it was already 3 p.m.

They granted Ayuman’s request but added that the demolition will continue at 8:30 a.m. today.

Vivi Dalmacion, head of the Apas Urbanland Association Inc., said they will form a human barricade today so the demolition will not push through.

As in the group’s previous statements, Dalmacion said they believe that Magat is not the rightful owner of Lots 942 and 947, but the Cebu Provincial Government.

Demolition of houses at Barangay Apas, Cebu City
CEBU. The demolition of one house in Apas, Cebu City drives a woman (right) to tears, while Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman (above, partly hidden by roof) pleads with court sheriff Edilberto Suarin and a demolition team to stop tearing down the rest of the 157 houses. (Amper Campana)

No relocation

She reiterated that the Province’s ownership of the property is covered under Executive Order (EO) 20, issued on June 9, 1918 by the Office of the Governor General of the Philippines.

She also said they have been living in the area for more than 30 years.

In an interview, Ayuman said he was “shocked and surprised” that the demolition was implemented, considering that the court has not acted yet on the motion filed by Payot.

Ayuman said neither the City Government nor the barangay prepared a relocation site for the affected families.

A demolition without proper relocation, he pointed out, violates Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act.

Ayuman also appealed yesterday to Gov. Hilario Davide III to intervene in the Apas case and help his constituents.

Because he, too, believes that the Capitol owns Lots 942 and 947, Ayuman asked the governor to file in court a motion to declare null and void Magat’s claim over the property.

‘Judicial courtesy’

Councilor Hanz Abella, who is a lawyer and head of the Local Housing Board, also went to the site yesterday and said the demolition should not have been implemented out of “judicial courtesy”, considering that the court has yet to hear the motion filed by Payot.

Abella said he will coordinate with the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor to try to find an immediate relocation site for the Apas residents.

Judge Acosta of RTC Branch 9, who released his order past 2 p.m., said he cannot prohibit the sheriff from implementing the writ of demolition, because his sala has not acquired jurisdiction over the sheriff.

Acosta also said that the appellants failed to notify Suarin about the hearing that was set last Monday.

One of the lawyers, Militar, said that his clients filed a motion yesterday afternoon asking Acosta to reconsider his decision.

For his part, landowner Suico-Magat’s lawyer, Mark Anthony Gaviola, said his client is offering financial assistance ranging from P10,000 to P40,000 to the families affected by the demolition.

The payment will be based on the size of the house and floor area.

Help offered

Gaviola said there were five families who availed themselves of the offer yesterday. One of the families was among the appellants.

“Miss Magat is offering help to the families on one condition: that will voluntarily vacate and destroy their structures,” he said.

Gaviola further said those families who would avail themselves of the assistance today will be given half of the payment and the rest will be given on Friday.

Last Jan. 23, MTCC Branch 6 Judge Pamela Baring-Uy issued the writ of demolition.

In denying yesterday the motion for a restraining order, the judge said, “As what the court said, it cannot, and will not tolerate and allow abuse of the mandate and the doctrines under the guise that defendants are ‘homeless and underprivileged citizens’.”

The two properties span 7,411 square meters and 9,753 sq. m. Both lots were supposed to be part of the expansion of the old Lahug airport.

In their reply to the motion for a restraining order, Suico-Magat’s lawyers had said that the appellants are not entitled to a TRO because there is no “clear and unmistakable right” for them to be protected.

Social justice

The appellants had admitted in their position paper that they had no idea who owned the lots at the time they built their homes, Magat’s lawyers said.

For his part, Militar said that 29 of the families he represented have already placed a supersedeas bond, which was supposed to delay the demolition.

A supersedeas is a writ that suspends the authority of a trial court to issue an execution order on a judgment that has been appealed. The court requires a supersedeas bond from an appellant who wants to delay the implementation of a judgment.

While she understands the plight of the affected residents, Judge Baring-Uy said, the principle of social justice should not be abused.

“No group, however blessed, and no sector, however distressed, is allowed to abuse this noble principle,” the judge said. She pointed out that the lot owner had offered P6 million as financial assistance to the affected residents, but they turned it down.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 05, 2014.

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