Military personnel resist eviction from Fort Bonifacio

RETIRED and active military personnel residing at a portion of the Diplomatic and Consular Area in Bonifacio South, Taguig City, on Monday assailed the order of an official of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to evict them from their homes although they are not staying in the area that is scheduled for demolition.

In a letter, retired Col. Benjamin Zabat also warned BCDA President Arnel Casanova that he will be sued should he proceed with the demolition of their homes and other structures for it is not part of the BCDA’s jurisdiction.

The Consular Area Residents Association Inc. led by Zabat said that the portion where the structures are to be demolished is not part of the so-called Jusmag (Joint US Military Advisory Group) property, but is at the Diplomatic and Consular Area.

“Ang lupa pong inyong nais alisan ng istruktura ay hindi kabilang sa lupang sakop ng Jusmag. Ang lupa pong ito ay bahagi ng Diplomatic and Consular Area, na ayon na rin sa inyong web site ay hindi bahagi nang BCDA. Nang dahil doon, ang inyo pong patalastas ay hindi ukol at hindi maaaring ipatupad laban sa amin,” Zabat stressed, referring to a notice sent by the BCDA dated July 20, 2012, titled “Sapilitang Pagbabaklas ng Istruktura at Huling Abiso ng Paglikas”  that threatened the immediate demolition of the structures in the area.

Aside from being outside the BCDA area, Zabat said the order for the demolition is also defective since Casanova has no authority to do so as he questioned Casanova’s authority to exercise the powers and duties of the BCDA president which, according to him, should be concurrently exercised by the BCDA chairman as mandated by Republic Act 7227, or the law creating the BCDA.

In opposing the planned demolition, Zabat also pointed out that the threat of forced demolition of the structures belonging to the soldiers, retired veterans and their families residing at the Diplomatic and Consular Area is contrary to the purposes sought to be served by the BCDA and RA 7279, otherwise known as the “Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.”

In a separate letter, lawyer Howard M. Calleja, counsel for the residents of the Diplomatic and Consular Area, warned Casanova that they will take legal action against him if the latter proceeded with the demolition.

“This letter…serves as warning from taking further action in relation to your proposed demolition. The area you are intending to demolish is outside the property of the BCDA and you are under no legal authority to act for and on behalf of BCDA,” Calleja said in his letter.

Relocation

The BCDA, meanwhile, said 277 families occupying the BCDA property in Jusmag have applied to voluntarily vacate the area and avail themselves of the relocation program being offered by the agency.

Casanova said the 277 families represent 93 percent of the 299 squatter who are occupying some 10 hectares of the 35.5-hectare Jusmag Area owned by the BCDA.

He said that out of 277 families who applied, 198 families have already voluntarily vacated the area with a total of 107 families opting  for outright  cash, while 69  families chose to relocate in the National Housing Authority (NHA) relocation site in Rodriguez, Rizal. Twenty families were disqualified but opted to voluntarily dismantle their structures while  two families are still resolving issues.

Twenty-one of the 277 families, representing 7 percent, did  not apply for the relocation program. In a  dialogue with the residents on July 26, the BCDA, led by Business Development Vice President Dean Santiago, appealed to the residents to avail themselves of the relocation program being offered.

However, the dialogue abruptly ended following the unruly behavior from representatives of the 7 percent minority who refused to avail themselves of the relocation program.

The Supreme Court in 2006 had denied with finality a motion for reconsideration by the Southside Homeowners Association Inc. (SHAI) of the Court’s previous decision allowing the government to take possession of the 35.5-hectare Jusmag property in Fort Bonifacio. “It is very clear that the government owns the property,” Casanova said. The SHAI  was composed of wives of retired military officers mostly generals.

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