Church asks City: Remove squatters from graveyard

02/15/2001 - WORRIED about the peace and order and sanitation in the cemetery, the Archdiocese of Cebu asked Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama for help in removing informal settlers and vendors inside the Carreta Cemetery.

Officials of the archdiocese said the cemetery has become a haven for drug users, drug peddlers, thieves and robbers.

Through the archdiocese’s legal counsel Joel Ouano, cemetery administrators Bishop Julito Cortes and Msgr. Roberto Alensa requested the mayor to ensure the cemetery in Barangay Carreta is cleaned up and made more orderly.

They specifically asked Rama to help clear the area of ambulant vendors, remove the informal settlers who built their houses on top of tombs and demolish the illegal structures there.

At least 30 families live inside the cemetery while another 30 families go there every day to earn a living.

The counsel for the Archbishop of Cebu said that aside from criminals, informal settlers who live in the area have also contributed to the poor sanitation inside the cemetery.

“They cook, bathe, wash their clothes, and throw their waste anywhere, without any regard for their health or to the health of the visiting public,” Ouano said in his letter to the mayor.

He described the cemetery as a hideout and home of drug users and other criminals who often prey on people who visit the tombs of their deceased relatives.

Ouano also gave the mayor a copy of certifications and records from the Cebu City Police Office and the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office to prove his allegation.

The father of Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is among those buried in the cemetery along Gen. Maxilom Ave. It was Vidal who initiated the removal of the informal settlers and vendors before he retired last month.

Archdiocese officials have sat down and discussed the matter with representatives of the vendors and the informal settlers but their agreement was not carried out.

Ouano said the archdiocese offered financial assistance to the affected families but they refused to accept the aid.

He said the cemetery administrators could not give the families anything more, which is why they decided to ask for help from the City Government.

Rama, for his part, promised to help the archdiocese and the informal settlers and ambulant vendors in the cemetery.

He asked the head of the Squatters Prevention Encroachment and Elimination Division and the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor to meet the concerned parties and discuss what the City can offer.

“They will have to sit down to discuss where and how the City can help, within what is allowed by law. But, of course, the archdiocese will also have to help because we also don’t know how these informal settlers were able to stay there,” the mayor said.

Rama said he agrees with church officials that cemeteries should not be a place for people to live in.(Sun Star)

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