In November 2015, Councilor Alvin Dizon filed a proposed resolution to approve an ordinance imposing a moratorium on evictions or demolitions of dwelling in public lands to be undertaken by the Cebu City Government for a period of one year from effectivity of this ordinance within the City of Cebu. The City Council gave due course to the proposal and after having met the required processes and procedures, the proposed ordinance was subjected to a vote. The resolution was passed by a majority of the council. When it was submitted to Mayor Rama, the latter vetoed it citing as basis the proposed ordinance negates a National Law, the R.A 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. The Council attempted to override the Rama veto but failed to get the required numbers because the Councilors who belong to the opposite party but voted in favor of the ordinance either absented or reversed their stand on the issue. Meanwhile, Rama was suspended for sixty days due to a pending Administrative case. Encouraged by Vice Mayor Labella’s pro vote on the measure in the first filing, Councilor Dizon re-filed the ordinance confident that Labella as Acting Mayor will not veto it. The re-filed bill again unanimously won the voting but Labella vetoed it on the same basis cited earlier by Rama.
What puzzles and infuriates many about the vetoes is the fact that the proposed ordinance invokes R.A. 7279 or UDHA as impetus, support and enhancement of the latter. A thorough and cautious reading of the resolution reveals nothing that contravenes UDHA. It is provided in Section 4.4 of the proposed ordinance: Notwitstanding the moratorium, the Cebu City Government may implement eviction or demolition in the areas covered in the following instances:
A. There is an urgent necessity to immediately relocate families to prevent loss of lives and property. Provided, that the city may provide temporary relocation but it shall immediately identify those qualified for permanent relocation;
B. The new structures constructed by informal settlers in the areas covered after the effectivity of this ordinance as certified by the barangay local government unit concerned;
C. In both instances, the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor shall conduct adequate consultation and notice. Provided, that the Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) team shall implement humane demolition.
Thus, the above provisions indicate that in letter and spirit, the proposal is in furtherance of the UDHA. What the vetoes simply show is that Rama and Labella lacked due diligence and conscientious study of the ordinance for them to have missed the whole point of the measure. Their actions betray either utter absence of regard for the welfare of the poor and marginalized of Cebu. Or worse, it is a product of unprincipled partisan electoral patronage politics rearing its ugly head – at the expense of the very people Rama and Labella shamelessly vowed to serve.
The moratorium enjoys broad support from different sectors: the affected “squatters”-urban poor of the city; various cause-oriented NGOs and peoples’ organizations; the academe, professionals and even from the religious nuns, brothers, clerics, as well as pastors and ministers of churches. And yet despite this, Rama and Labella ignored them – opting to be insensitive and callous to the clamor of the people. Even the just concluded International Eucharistic Congress did not make a dent on the sensibilities and sensitivities of the two officials notwithstanding the clarion calls of the Catholic Church to care and serve the poor and excluded in our society. After all, their attendance and presence at the Congress activities, if anything, were just plain posturing.
Another meaning-gleaning of the veto is the question whose welfare and interests are Rama and Labella really protecting? Are they abandoning the poor to defend moneyed, powerful, corporate and foreign interests? For whom is development and general welfare - if it sacrifices the many poor deprived and oppressed in the process. It cannot be anything but sheer misplaced priorities and moral bankruptcy.
We call on the councilors who voted against the measure to rethink and reconsider their position on the matter. Heed the cries of the disadvantaged and neglected of your constituents. We call on the councilors who voted in favor of the measure: remain steadfast and continue your principled stewardship of the poor and excluded.
We call on the people to assert your rights. Discern well who to vote for in the coming elections. Resist government assault on the weak, small and poor. Expose and oppose abusive and anti-people practices, policies, programs and projects. Reject massive violation of peoples’ rights.