Lahug clearing starts; court sides with UP
CEBU, Philippines — The day dreaded by residents of Sitio Avocado came yesterday.
With tools and equipment in tow, workers arrived in the sitio in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City before noon to demolish 70 structures that had mushroomed in what used to be a fire-stricken site owned privately by the University of the Philippines-Cebu.
The school intends to repossess the lot to supposedly build more buildings for its high school department.
Because it was greenlighted by the court, not even the pleas and whimpers of affected residents could stop the demolition. Concrete or made of wood, all structures were ordered leveled down.
Eliseo Gulfan Jr., president of Sitio Avocado Lahug Peoples Organization Inc. (SALPOI), said the affected residents, including him, were caught off-guard by the demolition.
“We were not properly informed that there will be a demolition today. It was abrupt. The first demolition was made last July 22 but we filed a motion against the writ of demolition. Now, we are left wondering why they pushed through with it,” he told The FREEMAN in Cebuano.
Upon the order of the court, Sheriff IV Reynaldo Rule Enolpe tasked his men to clear the structures on Lot No. 911 B2 C2 E, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 31166, after the motion for reconsideration filed by the residents was reportedly dismissed by the court.
Several police personnel were present to pacify disgruntled homeowners and maintain peace and order throughout the proceeding.
But lawyer Collin Rosell, counsel of the residents, said the move was illegal because his clients have not received copy of the order dismissing the motion.
“Where’s your resolution? I was not served. I would have responded if it was served. That’s courtesy,” Rosell said in a confrontation with Enolpe at the site.
Rosell said the order denying the residents’ plea to hold the demolition in abeyance will not hold water because they did not receive copy of the order.
Rosell said he attended the hearing on the demolition on Friday. On the same day, Regional Trial Court Branch 23 issued an order denying the motion of the residents “for lack of merit.”
“[But] that was not served. In our motion, we made it clear that Cebu City and the National Housing Authority were not served notice of final judgment pursuant to the Urban Development and Housing Act,” Rosell explained.
Simeon Romarate, head of the City Hall Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, separately confirmed that the city government was also not informed of the scheduled demolition.
To recall, UP-Cebu filed a civil case against the residents for “forcible entry” into the 4,000-square meter property following the fire that broke out in the area on Dec. 26, 2015.
During that time, Gulfan claimed, the city government allowed them to construct their houses on the affected lot through a reblocking scheme.
However, the school said it plans to now use the lot to put up more classrooms in a project to be funded by the national government.
Since the demolition pushed through yesterday, Rosell said the residents will pursue legal charges against the people responsible.
Barangay Busay has been identified as the permanent relocation site for affected families. But for now, they will be asked to temporarily stay at a building in Barangay Lorega San Miguel, said Romarate.
Some of them have accepted the city’s offer for shelter but others have opted to stay with their relatives.
Since only 10 structures were cleared yesterday, the demolition is expected to continue within the week. — JMD (FREEMAN)