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As I See It

QC gov’t illegally demolishing MSBF gardens

/ 12:57 AM January 24, 2014

Storm troopers of the Quezon City government are on their fifth day of demolishing the nurseries, gardens, and stalls at the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation’s Environment Center—without benefit of a court order. Actually, a Quezon City court has issued a permanent injunction on City Hall regarding the matter, but the latter has chosen to brazen it out and ignore it. What is surprising is that the national government and the courts are doing nothing to stop the injustice to and oppression of ordinary citizens by, ironically, a city government.

Representatives Jonathan de la Cruz and Lito Atienza have filed resolutions calling on the House to investigate this shameful episode in Quezon City history. Human Rights Commissioner Etta Rosales has said that the evictions should be done according to due process, but her admonition had no effect on City Hall officials.

Why is City Hall doing this abominable thing? So it can deliver the seven-hectare property on Quezon Avenue to private developer Ayala Land Inc. so the latter can convert this green lung in the city into still another concrete jungle. Money, greed and selfishness win all the time in this country.

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Mind you, these gardeners are not squatters.  They are legitimate entrepreneurs with barangay clearances and lease contracts at the MSBF Environment Center, and paying business taxes to the city. By destroying their gardens, City Hall has killed their only means of livelihood.

Ironically, beside the MSBF gardens is a squatter colony on Agham Road (the killer of a scholar of the nearby Philippine Science High School came from this colony), but City Hall has chosen not to touch it. What it dares not do to lawbreakers it is doing to law-abiding citizens at the MSBF gardens. That is the kind of governance we are getting from the present occupants of City Hall.

There is also another squatter colony across the street. Why don’t City Hall and Ayala start with them? (City Hall is collecting a “social housing tax” from homeowners, allegedly to be used for the housing of informal settlers.) By the time they finish constructions there, the usufruct of MSBF over the seven-hectare National Housing Authority property would have expired and MSBF and its gardeners would have left without a fuss.

No less than the Supreme Court has

affirmed MSBF’s usufruct rights over the property. The 50-year usufruct is about to expire. Why not wait for that?

But no, City Hall wants to demonstrate its power and might. Before daybreak last Monday, City Hall’s storm troopers swooped down, for the third time, on the MSBF gardens. The gardeners, members of the Seedling Bank Gardens Growers Association, were given only one hour to remove their plants, after which their nurseries and stalls would be demolished.

Cruelly, the storm troopers were assisted by members of the Philippine National Police, those who profess “to protect and to serve” the ordinary Filipino. Is that the way they protect and serve the Filipinos who are paying their salaries?

And surprisingly, they were also assisted by private security guards, also paid with taxpayer money, who were sent by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. This agency is under Vice President Jejomar Binay, who wants to be president in 2016. Is this the kind of governance that he would employ if he realizes his dream to ascend to Malacañang?

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City Hall knows that what it is doing is wrong, so the officials are protecting themselves. There are no written orders for the demolition, only verbal ones from City Administrator Vic Endriga and Elmo San Diego, chief of the city government’s Department of Protection and Social Order.

Print, radio and television journalists were chased out of the compound to prevent them from documenting and telling the real stories of what is being done to the gardeners and their nurseries.

And City Hall is said to have hired teenagers from the squatter colony in Payatas, paying them P200 each, to do the dirty deed of demolishing the stalls and gardens.

“Pasensya  na  kayo.  Kayo  na  lang  po  ang   magtanggal  para  hindi  kami  makasira,  kasi  dalawang  daan  lang  daw  and  ibabayad  sa  amin  (Please excuse us. Why don’t you dismantle your stalls so we don’t destroy them. After all, we are being paid only P200),” the boys reportedly told the stall owners. They apparently did not realize the evil that they were doing. They even posed and smiled for the cameras and asked that the pictures be posted on YouTube.

In the process of the demolition, full-grown trees and saplings were cut down and seedlings were destroyed.

What is the city government’s claim to the property? It claims that it bought the property when it was sold at a public auction for the failure of MSBF to pay real estate taxes. But it has neither title to the property nor deed of sale. The alleged sale is not recorded in the Registry of Deeds.

Besides, any supposed sale is void because the owner, the NHA, is expressly exempted by law from real estate taxes and MSBF by the Civil Code.

And even presuming, but not admitting, that the city government owns it, change of ownership does not extinguish the usufruct. The law says that the new owner must respect the usufruct until it expires.

City Hall should stop this land-grabbing.

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TAGS: column, Eviction, illegal demolition, manila seedling bank foundation, MSBF, neal h. cruz, quezon city government
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