UP Cebu’s land woes
Political undercurrents complicate a solution for the fate of victims of the post-Christmas fire in barangay Lahug.
In an ideal world, a win-win solution would be the first priority of government leaders working for social justice.
The University of the Philippines in Cebu , a state-run academic instituiton with a tradition of being pro-poor, can’t afford to look like a greedy landlord out to take advantage of a fire that has suddenly cleared out property the school has been chafing to develop for long-delayed facilities.
Rushing to the site to set up a fence has provoked a City Hall response in defense of almost 900 individuals who were suddenly left homeless. But rescuing urban poor settlers is not the simple equation it seems.
What Dean Liza Corro didn’t anticipate was that her fast groundwork in barangay Lahug — reaching out to Lahug officials, sending engineers to the site and going to fire victims in the public elementary school to offer them hope for a permanent relocation site in province-owned land– was made in “enemy territory”.
Lahug officials appreciated the school dean’s going out of her way to open a dialog with them and meet with illegal settlers to work out a solution for the illegal settlers instead of sending proxies and jargon-noisy lawyers.
But Lahug , the bailiwick of ex-Rama Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos is not the stomping ground of City Hall’s Rama administration. The Province of Cebu, which made available a 2-hectare relocation site a jeepney ride away in Nivel Hills, is also a Liberal Party domain.
Now Cebu city officials have dug in their heels and are determined to be the ones who save the day for informal settlers by re-blocking and promising on-site relocation.
With a May election ahead, and a de facto campaign season in full swing, UP Cebu has found itself caught in an ill-timed turf war.
A short-term solution has added pressure on all parties because what happens in the May polls is an all-important short-term outcome.
Is this the reason letters or emissaries sent to City Hall immediately after the Dec. 26 fire seeking a coordination meeting went unanswered?
Who will work out a short-term and long-term solution for the residents amid hardened positions about property rights, eviction and hero status for the poor? Who has the resources and opportunity to correct a situation of urban settlers with no tenure in a government lot, and a university unable to build facilities?
Only through sincere dialog with stakeholders, a messy but necessary process for government entities and private parties, will the land dispute be resolved. The frame has to shift back to one of social justice.
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