Another community demolished pending negotiation

Oct. 11, 2012

Samera Amerkhan, a resident believes that they have a right to remain in their lot as they still have a pending case in the Court of Appeals. “Our lawyers asked (them) that we all wait for it.”

Davao Today

Davao City, Philippines – Some 35 homes in Barangay North San Juan in Agdao District were demolished yesterday despite residents’ pleas that they were negotiating with the new landowner.

As with any demolition in the past years, residents fought with barricades and stones, but the 300-strong police, soldiers and firefighters broke their ranks. Six people were arrested, including two minors in the scuffle.

Davao Today interviewed some residents who were angry that the demolition pushed through even as negotiations are ongoing with the landowner’s counsel.

The Development Resources Corporation (DRC) owned by Carlos Chua claims ownership of the land. The DRC pushed for the demolition of the residents’ homes last October 2011 but was postponed when angry residents resisted.

Residents filed a petition to the court but this was junked. Negotiations followed next and residents were asked to pay to DRC counsel Atty. Ma. Carolina Arias.

One resident Renato Lucero said he had receipts that he paid for the 70-square meter lot his family occupies.

“They (did not) tell us to vacate, but they told us to pay. At first, it was PHP1,500 per square meter. We paid P40, 000 for our first payment and then P20, 000 for the next,” he said.

Residents said they were told that the payment is for the “equity” or cash value of their lot, excluding the current loan balance. For the residents, the “equity” was equivalent the assurance that their homes would not be demolished.

But Lucero’s house was demolished. Lucero appealed to Sheriff Edgardo Hofileña before the demolition why his lot is included in the demolition order.

Hofileña told Lucero, “I am not saying that you are lying. But we had several meetings with the landowner and your lot is not excluded.”

Hofileña showed Davao Today a copy of the writ of demolition issued by Judge Silverio Mandalupe, Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC). The order shows a list of 35 names of persons whose properties were to be demolished. Some names are encircled, which the sheriff said means they are excluded from the demolition per order of the landowner.

No security in negotiation

Another resident Samera Amerkhan said during the first negotiation that 42 lots were included in the demolition order but this was lowered to 35 after negotiations.

Amerkhan said many residents have made full payments for the “equity” but said the negotiations did not state if they will be given titles.

She also said they had been searching for Arias but that she cannot be found. Amerkhan fears that the money they paid to the landowner has been for naught.

But Amerkhan believes that they have a right to remain in their lot. “We still have a pending case in the Court of Appeals and our lawyers asked (them) that we all wait for it,” she reasoned.

Lucero and Amerkhan’s tales show how urban poor residents struggle to find a piece of lot for their families. Lucero said they had been residing in San Juan since 1969.

“We held no title at first because this was initially a squatters’ area, but, after some time (a claimant) made us pay for the lot we were occupying,” he said.

Amerkhan, whose mother was the original occupant of her lot said she moved to the place when her mother died and paid PHP20,000 to Atty. Arias.”

A resident whose house was excluded was Edgay Hermosura. He transferred from Lizada after their house was demolished. He too paid a sum of money to Arias in 2010 because she said they were told that they would be demolished if they didn’t. “There was a computation of how much needed to pay but we decided to pay PHP50,000 for our three lots,” he said.

Hermosura added that no receipt was issued to them. “We just deposited money to Arias’ account. We only have our deposit slips as proof,” he said.

Hermosura said there should be contract and the mode-of-payment should be reflected in a “deed-of- sale”, which includes the property’s exact location and spot-map. “We have been waiting for that but there has been nothing,” he said.

LGU services and relocation

Residents said Arias offered them a relocation site last year that they refused. They checked the City Planning Office and Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor to confirm the sites and both offices said Arias did not make arrangements for the residents to be relocated.

Davao Today tried to reach Atty. Arias to no avail.

Hermosura lamented that in the first place, no contracts or deed of sale were discussed that led to this problem.

“The lack of a clear-cut and written legal agreement is the reason why some residents have opted not to negotiate. We have been waiting for that but there has been nothing,” Hermosura said. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/

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