The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has denied harassing informal settlers on the disputed parcel of land in Barangay San Miguel, but insisted it has legal ownership over the property.
Major Bernes Contiga, office of the wing staff of the PAF, appearing at the committee hearing before the City Council on Tuesday afternoon, claimed that the lots within the bounds of a certain checkpoint at Gate 3 along Naval and Madrid Roads belong to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and were administered by the Tactical Operations Wing West (TOW West) under the Western Command (WESCOM).
”Lagi namin in-explain sa dialogue last year and the previous years with the barangay na ‘yon ay nasa master development plan. The AFP master development plan is signed and sanctioned by the Secretary of National Defense,” Contiga said.
In a statement sent to Palawan News on Monday, the military insisted that the claim is legal in accordance with Sections 3 and 27 of Republic Act 7279, which stated that the AFP has a right to secure and protect the land within the military base.
The parcel of land was named under the Republic of the Philippines, represented by General Favian Ver, former chief of staff of the AFP, with a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 074-2013000453.
In its statement, the TOW West claimed that the “illegal settlers” were being instigated by the New People’s Army (NPA).
The NPA-Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) Palawan had earlier accused the PAF of harassing residents within the disputed land in the military reserve area.
“Nakarating sa amin ang ginagawang pangha-harass ng mga elemento ng PAF sa mga residenteng nasasakupan ng AFP-WESCOM Reservation. Ginagamit nito ang pangalan ng New People’s Army (NPA),” BVC said in a statement sent to Palawan News Sunday.
Councilor Nesario Awat, chairman of the committee on legal matters, who was also informed on the issue and sought to settle the dispute, asked Contiga point-blank about the alleged NPA involvement.
“Kuwento-kuwento na sila ay parang sinususpetsahang NPA, hindi po totoo ‘yon?,” Awat inquired.
Contiga denied the accusations and instead asked the complainants to file a formal complaint.
“Hindi po totoo ‘yon,” Contiga said.
“Wala namang harassment. Kaya nakiki-usap din kami if they have complaints or grievance mas maganda i-direct nila sa administrator which is TOW-West. I-direct nila sa amin lahat ng grievance. Those grievances we will forward to the chief of staff and to the Secretary of National Defense (SND),” Contiga added.
Armando Rodriguez, president of the Princesa Village Homeowners Association (PVHA), said the mere placing of a checkpoint in the area is a form of harassment.
“‘Yong paglalagay niyo lang ng bakod na yero doon sa aming daanan ay isang harassment na ‘yon. Hindi na kayo nagbigay ng respeto sa aming mga senior citizen papadaanin [niyo] pa kami doon sa malubak at maputik na daan,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that a contract was made between the homeowners and General Domingo back in 2012 which was subsequently canceled by the end of 2018 along with an order to vacate.
“Panahon ni General Domingo noong kami ay binigyan ng kontrata. Ang purpose niya para daw hindi ma-squattan ng mga sibilyan. Bigla na lang hininto ‘yong kontrata since 2012 and then 2018 bigla na lang kami sinulatan ng demand letter na kami ay aalis na doon ng December 31 noong 2018. Kung gusto niyo kami umalis doon bayaran niyo kami, walang problema. Kasi kini-claim niyo na AFP property yan,” Rodriguez asserted.
One homeowner, who asked not to be identified, admitted that the parcel of land was not titled, but pointed out that an agreement was entered into with the military officials for them to occupy the land.
“Binigyan kami ng chance na magtayo ni General Domingo that time, 2010 pa yata. May mga construction doon, kaya lang nasira po hindi namin naasikaso. But in case sa AFP talaga ‘yon and they need the area, willing naman akong i-give up ‘yon. Hindi rin maganda ‘yong pumupunta kayo sa area na full battle gear kayo. Anong tingin niyo sa amin mga kriminal? Dapat hindi ganoon. Dapat maging fair kayo,” one settler pleaded.
Meanwhile, Engr. Joven Baluyot of the City Assessor’s Office (CAO) clarified that the checkpoint, which restricts movement among the homeowners, was placed in a barangay road that the city government has the power to regulate.
“Based on the record sa kadastro ay barangay road. Considering that during that time pati ngayon,” Baluyot said.
The City Council has yet to settle the land dispute as further deliberations would soon be scheduled.
(With a report from Jeshyl Guiroy)