Looters prey on homeless

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

CEBU - The demolition of 157 houses in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas, Cebu City continued Wednesday but was marred by a looting incident that led the official in charge to suspend it.

About 15 families in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas filed another petition to save their houses from being demolished. Two other motions, which asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO), have failed.

But the families said the “unreasonable rush to demolish” ignores “so many other equally important issues unresolved.”


Without any last-minute save from the court yesterday, it was the looting, instead, that bought the residents some time because it forced the court sheriff to stop the wrecking crew for about four hours.

Around 8:30 a.m., a 200-man demolition team started the second day of the demolition on a property owned by Aletha Suico-Magat.

The demolition pushed through despite the appeal of Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman to court sheriff Edilberto Suarin yesterday morning to put it on hold, since the court has yet to act on the motion for temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by lawyer Feliciano Payot, who represents majority of the residents.

Apas demolition
FIVE HOUSES DOWN SO FAR. A demolition crew tugs at the house of Joeman Bandillo, 1 of 5 houses torn down since last Tuesday. The crew is enforcing an order to demolish 157 houses in Barangay Apas, Cebu City. (Ruel Rosello)

The houses that the demolition team targeted yesterday belonged to those who received financial assistance from Magat in the past years.

The owners of the two houses that were first demolished last Tuesday have also received financial assistance from Magat.

According to Suarin, seven out of the 157 families already received cash aid, in varying amounts that depend on the type of structure built.

More than two hours after the demolition started, however, Suarin suspended it after barangay tanods and policemen apprehended a 16-year-old boy who was caught getting wires, a radio, blower and hair iron from one of the houses being demolished.

Hair tools

The minor was part of the demolition team hired by Magat.

Ayuman confirmed this after he got the minor’s name and found out that he was on the list of demolition team members that Suarin had submitted to the barangay.

The police recovered from the minor a bag containing a radio and wires. The blower and hair iron were allegedly passed to other members of the demolition team.

Asked by Ayuman and the police about his act, the minor denied he stole from any of the houses.

But barangay tanod Michael Puno and Ruby Sanchez, a friend of one of the affected families, said they saw him in the act.

The minor was brought to the Mabolo Police Station.

Vangie Adonai, who owns the house that was robbed, said she wants the hair iron and blower to be returned to her.

Adonai, who is a hairstylist, needs these gadgets so she can earn money and feed five children. “Sakit lang kaayo ba kay giguba na among balay, kawatan pa gyud mi (It feels terrible. First our house was demolished, then someone stole from us),” she added.

Sheriff’s case

Since no criminal charge can be filed against the minor, Ayuman said that Atty. Janesis Ponce is planning to file a case against the sheriff. Ponce, an executive
assistant of Mayor Michael Rama, was tasked to handle the situation in Apas.

Asked about the matter, Ponce said that City Hall lawyers are planning to file case against the sheriff for child endangerment, child abuse and child employment.

“He is responsible for his people and if they commit a crime, he is responsible for them. He has command responsibility. What’s worse is that they employed a minor,” he said.

Ponce admitted that the filing of charges against the sheriff may not stop the demolition.

“But at least it will open his (the sheriff’s) eyes to be circumspect in implementing it kay siya mismo wa kaila sa iyang mga tawo (because he doesn’t seem to know his demolition crew well),” he said.

Following the looting incident, Suarin suspended the demolition and met with all the demolition team members. He required each of them to present a valid ID so they will be properly identified.

Smaller crew

Around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, Suarin submitted the names and presented to Apas barangay officials and the City Government’s Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor 24 members of the demolition team. They are the only ones who submitted a valid ID.

Around 2:15 p.m., Suarin resumed the demolition.

It was then stopped around 3 p.m. to comply with the Urban Housing and Development Act of 1992, he said.

The demolition team dismantled three houses yesterday, bringing their total to five.

For today, Suarin said the demolition will continue as long as the court will not issue a temporary restraining order.

The other members of the demolition team, he said, can work today provided that they will be able to present valid IDs.

The demolition order covers Lot 942, which has an area of 9,753 square meters, and Lot 947, with 7,411 sq. m. Both lots were supposed to be part of the expansion of the old Lahug airport.

Two petitions that asked the court to stop the demolition have already failed.

Off to court

Despite that, about 15 families in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas filed another petition yesterday to save their houses from being demolished.

Assisted by their lawyer Feliciano Lobe Payot, the petitioners filed an urgent petition for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against landowner Aletha Suico-Magat and sheriff Suarin.

The petitioners are Rosalinda Gambit, Bradley Manos, Alan Nava, Vicenta Tuyor, Myra Gumahad, Edwin Pedrano, Rona Sayson, Melchor Abellaneda, Jocelyn Francisco, Mary Jane Magpali, Ester Demecino, Margarita Salabsab, Ledwin Linaban, Lando Calumba and Marites Beltran.

The petition was raffled to Judge Estela Alma Singco of the Regional Trial Court Branch 12.

In their petition, the residents argued that Judge Pamela Baring-Uy of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 6 did not acquire jurisdiction over the case.

It was Judge Baring-Uy who issued the writ of demolition dated Jan. 23 against the families who occupy the properties.

There is a need to issue a restraining order, the residents said, since pursuing the destruction of their houses would cause them “great and irreparable injury.” (PDF/GMD of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 06, 2014.

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