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Wrong Step at a Wrong Time

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UP Cebu on Reclaiming Its Land in Sitio San Jose
Official Statement of the UPVCC Student Council

It was a very tragic time for the poor dwellers of Sitio San Jose, Brgy. Lahug when fire razed their area in the night of November 10, 2009. Nonetheless, what made the moment more tragic was when University of the Philippines in Visayas – Cebu College, thru its incumbent Administration, abruptly attempted to fence the burnt area, two days after the fire incident, as it is its property.

Undeniably legal, UP Cebu’s land property also includes Sitio San Jose and the Sunset Drive Extension. The land, being idle for many years, is inhabited by informal settlers until the present. Hence, UP Cebu, as an owner, has the right to reclaim its land property anytime but it must undergo proper procedure. With this, we firmly believe that the impulsive action of the UP Cebu Admin to fence the said area is immoral, inhumane and humiliating.

IMMORAL AND INHUMANE

“CEBU City officials declared an all-out-war against the University of the Philippines Visayas – Cebu College (UPVCC) for its “immoral” act of institutionalizing an easy way of evicting urban poor settlers in the city.” – Sunstar.com

The hasty action of UP Cebu Admin was immoral and inhumane simply because it was untimely – affected families or individuals were not yet even able to recover from the fire incident and were still grieving for losing their homes and properties. Should the fencing have succeeded, it would have left the poor dwellers homeless since they were not given adequate and sustainable relocation site yet.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

UP Cebu Admin’s attempt to fence the affected site is unconstitutional. It violated Article XIII, Sec. 10 (Urban Land Reform and Housing) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which mainly states that “Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

UP Cebu Admin’s attempt to fence and indirectly evict the poor dwellers living in its land property is a clear violation of such provision because such act was inhumane simply because it was untimely.

According to Article VII, Sec. 28 of Republic Act 7279 poor dwellers can be evicted with the following conditions:

(a)When there is a clear notice upon the effected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition, and;
(b)When there is adequate relocation, whether temporary or permanent provided by the local government unit of the said area.

However, these were not met even prior to the attempt of fencing considering that there was already a court order of eviction years ago.

Furthermore, another condition that will give the owner like UP Cebu to evict poor dwellers from its land is, “when there is an adequate consultation on the matter of resettlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated”. However, when the administration called for a consultation before the occurrence of Bagyong Ondoy, they did not show up.

Although it is not a prime obligation of UP Cebu Admin to find sites for relocation of the informal settlers, it still violated such provision because there was no relocation site provided for the poor dwellers the time when the UP Cebu Admin tried to fence the area destroyed by the fire.

ACADEMIC or COMMERCIAL?

The first purpose of the UP Cebu Administration on reclaiming the university’s lot is to utilize the land for academic purposes. However, out of the 18 billion proposed budget of UP, only 5 billion was approved. It will be divided by all the UP Units and the UP-Philippine General Hospital. It has also zero-peso capital outlay; thus, it cannot build academic buildings as of the moment. Because of this, we see that the Administration will use open the land for rental to business firms like the Ayala IT Hub in UP Diliman to generate funds. In fact, Atty. Jesus Isidoro Atoc, in his interview with Cebu Daily News, said that UP Cebu now plans to lease the burnt area to Ayala Corporation. This is an obvious example of commercialization of education. If we allow this to happen, it would mean that we give up our fight to assert our Constitutional and inherit right as students – education ought to be assigned the highest budgetary priority (1987 Phil. Constitution Art. XIV, Sec. 5.5). It would be equivalent to accepting the situation that the money toiled by our parents that should have been spent for our education is in the pockets of the greedy and abusive government officials.

Thus, we are calling the Philippine Government and its local government units to fulfill their duties and obligations stipulated in our Constitution: to provide the poor dwellers decent relocation site and houses and to prioritize education in order to put commercialization of education into an end.

Everything boils down to the incompetency of the government to provide decent housing and quality education to its constituents. While politicians spend millions on their travels and lavish meals, we, on the other hand, continue to struggle for a decent housing and a quality education. Hence, we do not buy what the government always says – Philippines do not have enough money.

All of us want better facilities, additional rooms and a quality education but we do not want to obtain it in the expense of having masses being displaced inhumanely. With proper consultation and humane relocation, the fire victims and the “informal settlers” of the UP property are willing to vacate the area.

FISHING MORE GUARDS

Besides the issue of morality, constitutionality, and commercialization of education, we see another important issue. On the day of attempting to fence the area, numerous guards from Fisher Agency were deployed to the area to be fenced. In this line, we question the inability of the UP Administration to hire additional security guards needed for the re-opening of the second gate while it was able to hire many guards who will watch over the said area to be fenced.

HUMILIATING

The fencing attempt of UP Cebu Admin was immediately printed in newspapers and posted over the internet. Speculations aroused like: the fire incident was arson so that the university could reclaim its land property easily. Nonetheless, what is most disturbing is that the very unwise step created a bad image for the university. Analysts would say UP Cebu Admin was illogical in its decision. Now, officers in the government owning the university claim that the act of UP was very immoral. UP is now tagged as a human rights violator rights when it should have been at the forefront of the struggle of the Filipino people.

OUR CALL

With all the repercussions, we are calling the UP Cebu Administration to:

    1. Temporarily cease from fencing the area and preventing the poor dwellers to rebuild their homes until all of the informal settlers will be relocated in area with decent housing and other resettlement conditions as prescribed in Article VII, Sec. 29 of RA 7279.
    1. Apologize to the public on its unwise, hasty, and inhumane act of reclaiming its land property and of evicting the poor dwellers in it.
    1. Settle the problem by having adequate consultation with the poor dwellers and the local government units concerned.
    1. Help the masses and the students in invoking the Philippine Government and Brgy. Lahug to find an adequate and sustainable relocation site (conditions of adequate and sustainable relocation is prescribed in Article VII, Sec. 29 of RA 7279) for the poor dwellers, as it is its Constitutional policy.
    1. Utilize its land properties for academic purposes only.
    1. Unite with the students to call for higher state subsidy.
    1. Ensure that there is representation of all sectors in the campus during decision-making.

TEMPORARILY CEASE FROM EVICTING HOMELESS POOR DWELLERS!

NO TO COMMERCIALIZATION OF EDUCATION!

SERVE THE PEOPLE!

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Author: pchan_august

Juris Doctor (Law) Graduate. Iskolar ng Bayan. Activist. Environmentalist. Frustrated Singer, Poet and Writer. Computer Enthusiast. Servant of the Masses. God's Servant.

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