Demolition in Apas halted

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Friday, March 7, 2014

CEBU -- After learning that a minor was hired for the wrecking crew, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in Central Visayas region on Thursday ordered the demolition of 157 houses in Barangay Apas, Cebu City, stopped.

Dole Regional Senior Labor and Employment Officer Russel Cañete issued the work stoppage order to Sheriff Edilberto Suarin at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Cañete arrived at the demolition site in Sitio San Miguel around noon to interview Suarin.


Suarin, not the owner of Lot 942 and Lot 947 Aletha Suico-Magat as earlier reported, had hired the 200-member demolition team.

Cañete had wanted to conduct a profile of all demolition crew members to see that no underaged worker was among them. Suarin had ignored him.

Also on Thursday, at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Soliver Peras ordered Suarin to stop the demolition pending his resolution on the petition for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order filed by 15 families affected by the writ of demolition.

“Do not touch anything,” Peras told Suarin.

Peras gave Suico-Magat and Suarin until 9 a.m. today, March 8, to submit their position papers.

Barangay Apas demolition stopped
CEBU. An underaged member of the demolition team picked by the court sheriff caused the operation in Sitio San Miguel, Barangay Apas, Cebu City to be stopped. (Ruel Rosello)

Without any last-minute save from the court on Thursday, 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.

That, as Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma urged on Thursday all agencies concerned, including the Cebu City Government, to consider the plight of those being displaced.

“While some say that this is done in the name of development, there should always be balance. We must consider those who are displaced, where they should be relocated or if we are helping these people find jobs,” Palma told reporters.

Palma said he is coordinating with the Cebu Archdiocese’s discernment group to help those displaced by the demolition.

The hiring of a minor for the demolition job was found out when tanods of Barangay Apas and policemen apprehended for looting a 16-year-old member of the wrecking crew.

The boy’s name is in the list of demolition team members Suarin had submitted to the barangay.

Cañete was waiting for Suarin and the demolition team at the command post set up by the barangay and City Hall at Sitio San Miguel.

Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman received a report from the affected residents that Suarin and the demolition team had started to tear down a house.

This led Ayuman, Mayor Michael Rama’s executive assistant Janesis Ponce, and Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) chief Collin Rosell to rush to the site.

Rosell and Ponce, both lawyers, questioned Suarin’s move to demolish the houses.

They said the members of the demolition team were not properly identified because some of them didn’t have valid IDs.

This violates Republic Act 7279, known as the Urban Housing and Development Act (Udha) of 1992, which requires proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition.

Ponce and Rosell told Suarin that either they will do a “citizen’s arrest” or he go with them to the command post and face the Dole official.

Suarin went with them and faced Cañete.

At the command post, Cañete told someone on the phone that he was being arrested. Talking over the phone, he walked back to the demolition site and did not return to the command post.

A few minutes after, Ayuman received a report that Suarin and the demolition team had proceeded with the demolition.

Ayuman, Rosell, Ponce and Cañete went back to demolition site.

Cañete then issued a work stoppage order to Suarin and told the sheriff that he could not go on with the demolition until he cleared the crew of minors and formally answer all allegations against him.

Suarin stopped the demolition.

Suarin refused an interview with reporters.

Rosell said what Suarin did was “gross defiance and disregard of authority” of the Dole officer.

Since the demolition started Tuesday, the crew has torn down six of the 157 structures.

Two families had volunteered to dismantle their own homes.

After the hearing at the RTC Branch 10 Thursday afternoon, both Ponce and Rosell said the court sheriff violated some laws in the enforcement of writ of demolition.

Ponce said the City Government will file charges against the court sheriff for alleged violation in the enforcement of the demolition writ.

Suarin said he would heed the judge’s order, but said that he did not violate any law in the implementation of the demolition writ.

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.

Baring-Uy issued the writ of demolition dated January 23 against the families, who occupied the properties owned by Magat.

The families occupied lot 947, with an area of 7,411 square meters, and lot 942, with an area of 9,753 square meters.

Both lots were supposed to be part of the expansion of the then Lahug airport.

The residents also said the lot claimant failed to state in her complaint that their stay on the property is by mere tolerance.

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.”

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. (PDF/GMD/with JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 07, 2014.

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