Cebu City Hall will negotiate with the owner of the private lot in sitio San Miguel, barangay Apas to allow 168 families to remain in the area.
Collin Rosell, chief of the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, said this as he disclosed that Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama will file a manifestation asking for an extension for the families until a remedy to their situation is arrived at.
“We will call the owner and invite him to the mayor’s office to hear his side. We will justify the city’s stance that the property is a socialized housing site,” he told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.
Last Friday, Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras of Branch 10 lifted the suspension on the demolition order against the residents, who will meet today to discuss the six-month grace period offered by lot owner Mariano Godinez.
The residents are members of the Archangel Residents Mergence Inc. (ARMI) housing association. Court sheriff Eid Caballes, who has yet to issue the notice, said the demolition may happen as early as next month.
Roberto Palmares, counsel of lot owner Mariano Godinez, said he was anxious about the continued defiance of the residents who insisted that they have a pending motion for reconsideration with the Court of Appeals.
“I’m worried. Who would want violence to take place? It’s already out of my hands. This is beyond me. My only role here is to appear before the court,” Palmares said.
The Court of Appeals earlier dismissed the petition of the families to reverse a lower court ruling that declared Godinez as the rightful owner of the lot.
Palmares said a motion for reconsideration could not even stop the demolition.
“As long as the court doesn’t reverse its ruling, the demolition shall take place. If the settlers don’t want to leave the area (despite the court order), then we got a problem,” he said.
Palmares reiterated his proposal for a written agreement between Godinez and the families allowing a six-month grace period for the residents in exchange for them leaving the site afterwards.
Palmares said he hasn’t received an answer from the settlers regarding his proposal.
Rosell said the city socialized housing program will still be in the same lot owned by Godinez.
In 1997, Godinez filed a suit in court against the government to reclaim the lot which also houses a regional police training center and less than a hectare of the Central Command’s Camp Lapu-Lapu.
In 2002, then RTC Judge Benigno Gaviola declared Godinez the “absolute and exclusive owner of the lot.” The ARMI filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA).
They said the trial court erred in issuing the writ of demolition on their houses when they were neither parties to the case nor included in the judgment.
They said they believed the government had expropriated it and the Cebu City Council identified it as a socialized housing site in a resolution approved on June 30, 1999.
The ARMI’s petition was dismissed by the appellate court for lack of merit.
The appellate court’s order was deemed “final and executory” but this didn’t deter the families from filing a motion for reconsideration which remained pending in court.
Rosell said the chances of the Apas residents remaining in the lot is 50-50.
He said the inaction of the previous Osmeña administration in acquiring the lot was to blame for the plight of the residents.
Rosell said while some residents are open to a compromise agreement if it means stopping the demolition, Cebu City officials will have to evaluate its points and conditions.
“What’s the city is looking into is not the compromise but the welfare of the residents,” he added.
Residents like Anne Serana, ARMI secretary agreed.
“Give us due process, that’s what we’ve been fighting for,” she said. / Ador Vincent Mayol and Tweeny M. Malinao