Yesterday evening I knew from media sources that Arnulfo Cadungog Sr., the leader of the Cebu City Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification, Enhancement (PROBE) team which was sent to demolish the homes and residences of my clients along Arellano St., Sitios Silangan I and II, Brgy. Tejero, Cebu City last Wednesday, 23 January 2019, was shot near MJ Cuenco Ave., Cebu City. Fortunately he survived and is now recovering in a private hospital. I, on behalf of my clients, wish him speedy recovery.

On my way to the city this morning, I heard over radio station DYHP that my good friend and PROBE Chief Raquel Arce had insinuated that the attempted murder of Mr. Cadungog had something to do with his job as a demolition team leader of the Silangan I and II homes. We wish to respond to that, and it is our sincere hope that media outlets will also give time and space to our statement.

I had always strived to be a law-abiding lawyer. Some court staff know that I would even surrender clients with outstanding warrants of arrest after our efforts to quash the indictment fail. I gave up as a lawyer of a certain group after they repeatedly violated the instructions of the public authority with jurisdiction over them. I will not tolerate any violation of the law by my clients.

Ms. Arce herself personally know that the homeowners and residents of Sitio Silangan I and II had always abided by the law. They are now still waiting for the Honorable Regional Trial Court Branch 10 to act on their 23 January 2019 “Urgent Motion to Halt the On-Going Demolition” filed yesterday, 24 January 2019, at around 11:00 A.M. Violation of the law is furthest from the minds of my clients, as in fact they had gone to our courts of justice in an attempt to vindicate their rights which they believe is vested in them by Section 28 of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA or R.A. No. 7279) as well as the 24 September 1992 Implementing Rules and Regulations to Ensure the Observance of Proper and Humane Relocation and Resettlement Procedures issued jointly by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). The attempted murder of the demolition team leader, who is just doing his job, will put to naught the efforts of the Silangan homeowners and residents to have the Honorable Court rule in their favor. We categorically deny any involvement in the attempted murder of Mr. Cadungog, condemn in the strongest possible terms the cowardly act, wish him full recovery soonest, and request the police to conduct a full and impartial investigation of the attempted murder with dispatch. We will fully cooperate with the police on this investigation, as it is also in our best interests that the author of the dastardly deed be identified soonest and prosecuted according to law.

We would like to take this opportunity to call for sobriety from all parties regarding the controversy at Sitios Silangan I and II. That being said, we also humbly request the PROBE, through Ms. Arce, not to proceed further with the demolition, until the Honorable Court shall have clarified the legal status of the situation, inasmuch as the Cebu City Legal Office, through Atty. Francis Ocampo, and I have differing legal opinions as to the effect of our filing of a Motion for Reconsideration to the 9 October 2018 Order of the Honorable Court in Civil Case No. R-CEB-18-04811-CV (Iris Caralde et al. v. Hon. Tomas Osmena et al.) – while Atty. Ocampo believes that the denial of the prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) gives the right to the PROBE to demolish the houses even with the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration to the said Order, I submit that the timely filing of a Motion for Reconsideration effectively suspends the effectivity of the 9 October 2018 Order, and thus what is in effect is the 24 July 2018 Order which provides for the maintenance of the status quo (i.e. no demolition). Certainly, allowing the Court to decide on this matter before attempting to demolish the houses will do justice to everyone concerned. Besides, the PROBE did not comply with the 24 September 1992 IRR, especially Section 3(1)(d)(4.0) thereof, which requires that the demolition shall not be earlier than 30 days after the notice has been issued – even assuming that the 4 January 2019 Notices, received by some of my clients on 7 January 2019, the earliest PROBE could implement the demolition, even if our legal opinion in the previous question is wrong, would be on 6 February 2019. We will submit to the sound discretion of the Honorable Court.
In August 2018, I, along with leaders of other cause-oriented groups in Cebu, convened the Nagkahiusang Sugbuanon alang sa Kinabuhi ug Hustisya (NASUKHU). The trigger event was the attempted murder of Mr. Cadungog’s own brother, former Brgy. Tejero Punong Barangay and incumbent barangay council, Jessielou Cadungog, on 30 July 2018. It is doubly ironic for me, who join with other militant individuals to call upon the government to investigate these killings, to have clients who are suspected to have attempted to kill Mr. Cadungog, whose own brother’s attempted murder was the trigger event which lead to the NASUKHU Coalition. I thus call upon our police authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation on this matter, in accordance with the law.

Another murder or attempted murder to solve Mr. Cadungog’s attempted murder will not improve things, and will only contribute to the public perception that Cebu, once the seat of Christianity in Asia, is now fast becoming the murder capital of the Philippines.

– Atty. Vincent S. Isles

Counsel, Sitio Silangan Homeowners and Residents Association