A province-owned lot in Barangay Luz, Cebu City which is used as evacuation site by victims of a fire over a month ago turns out to be a "ruydahan" or arena of about 200 fighting cocks.
Acting Provincial Legal Officer Donato Villa disclosed that upon closer inspection of the 1,949-square meter lot, they discovered that 75 percent is being occupied by 200 fighting cocks and a "ruydahan" or an illegal cockpit arena in the middle of the property.
"Mag wonder gyud ka nga 2018 paman ni na settle pero mo-insist gyud nga dili ipabawi," Villa told local media during a press conference with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Monday, March 2.
The property is subject to a compromise agreement between the Province of Cebu and retired colonel Rico Palcuto who filed a case against the Province, Fifth Avenue Property Development Corporation and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the Ciudad project several years ago.
A settlement was agreed in 2018 wherein Palcuto, who occupied a portion of the lot where the Ciudad property was supposed to be built, will transfer to the Barangay Luz lot by way of lease.
Last week, a team from the Province went to fence the area.
Residents and barangay officials said the Capitol “did not ask permission” to put up the fence.
They also asked the Capitol to let them stay at their makeshift tents while waiting for the City Government to give them a go signal to rebuild their homes.
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said the issue on "face value" would seem to be about the sorry plight of fire evacuees and the Capitol's indifference on their situation.
"Angay tingali mabaw-an unsay kamatuoran. Ngano man nga perte mang pakigpatay unya maayo ra ba'g legal. Tigbakay gud na gud. Ug dili man na lisensyado nga buwangan, provincial property man na," Garcia told members of the local media.
She also wondered how the Philippine National Police will act on the presence of "tigbakay" right in the middle of Cebu City.
"Unsa kaha ikasulti sa PNP nga bawal na raba ang illegal gambling. Kani naa gyud na sa tunga tunga sa property sa syudad," the governor added.
For his part, Villa said he was perplexed with the timing and presence of the evacuees, saying he was able to talk with Luz Barangay Captain Ronilio Sab-a on the morning before the fire incident, of the Capitol's planned take over of the property.
"Pwedi ba magpatabang mi nimo nga amo nang kuhaon ang mga tangkal, ang mga tangkal sa," Villa reportedly told Sab-a.
He said it was only three days after the fire incident that makeshift tents were seen in the area.
"Third day after sa sunog, naa namay tents kay pagka second day amo man nang gihawanan," Villa said.
Reports reaching the Capitol said the fighting cocks were owned by former Luz captain and now barangay councilor Jerume Pagador and the head of barangay tanods.
"Nahibong ta nga ang mga barangay officials since 2018 mo insist jud nga di ipabawi ang property," the provincial legal officer said.
"Actually wa ko kita ana. Bag-ohay rako kakita anang ruydahan..and which I've heard (ang owner) nga usa sa mga konsehal, ug ila mga tanod. Basig ilaha na nga enterprise kay ngano man protektahan man," Villa added.
He also said the village chief even told him that they will not allow the Province to use the property because they will use it as a site for an evacuation center.
"Unsa may katungod niya nga wa man gani siya titulo. So mahibung ta ba. Imong tan-awon sa sud perteng daghana'g manukan," Villa said.
The governor said she will ask Pagador to explain to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella the truth.
Garcia said it is unfortunate that some barangay officials chose to hide the real situation in the area.
"Ang kadaot lang kay naay mga barangay officials sa barangay Luz nga nagtakuban ug gitago kun unsay tinuod nga hinungdan, ang ilang mga manok ug ruydahan. If I don't insist on our rights, I am sacrificing the interest of the Province," Garcia said.
Villa said negotiations to clear the area have been underway since Garcia assumed office in July 2019.
"This is a court-sanctioned compromise agreement. Dili ako maoy naghimo ana. Di pa man gani to sa ako administration. Apan tungod kay gimando sa korte, kinahanglan nato sundon," the governor said.
Under the agreement, the Province and Palcuto will enter into a lease agreement within a certain period of time.
Garcia added an agreement would have been signed already, with Palcuto paying the Province.
"Pero tungod anang mga hiniktan, kanang mga manok ug ruydahan aning mga kristo sa buwangan og mga sultador na nagtakuban nga diay kuno mga opisyal sa barangay. Ako if I do not insist on our rights, na disadvantaged ang Provincial Government kay di man makasugod og bayad si Palcuto sa abangan nga unta gidawat sa probinsiya," Garcia said.
The governor further emphasized that the settlement reached in 2018 was not personal nor even credited to her.
"Di man na ako. Di man sad na para nako. Wa na mahitabo nga compromise nga agreement sa ako administrasyon but because ako may napuli nga governor it is my responsibility nga mosunod tas agreement," she said.
Unfortunately, Garcia said, the real story behind the controversy was hidden from the public: "Ang nakadaot lang nga gitago ang unsay tinuod nga hinungdan, ang ilang mga manok ug ruydahan."
On Monday, Garcia met with city officials including Councilor Raymond Garcia, Special Assistant to City Mayor Labella Joey Daluz and City Administrator Floro Casas.
According to Garcia, they were surprised upon learning of the presence of the ruydahan and sought that they be given a week to settle on the matter.
"Karon lang sila kadungog kay lahi man gipaabot sa mayor. Ang nasabtan sa mayor nasunogan pa, papahawaon pa. Mao to nakurat sila," the governor said.
"I said let us settle this. You know there are any other areas that we can work in beneficial cooperation, we don't need this irritant. First of all, because of this compromise agerement that was presented to the court and sanctioned by the court, we have this contractual obligation to settle this agreement. I am just doing what I need to do. And you have to know that kanang mga opisyal diha duna na silay personal interes," the governor said.
Villa said no one would easily know that the area is used as fighting cock area since the frontage of the propery is similar to a basketball court. (Vanessa L. Almeda)