Belmonte averts grab attempt on plant bank

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Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City interceded over the local government attempt to take full control of the seven-hectares of vast land occupied by the Manila Seedlings Bank Foundation (MSBF) and aided tenants to have an ample time to settle the dispute.

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On Thursday, the Quezon City government led by former city administrator Victor Endriga wrested control of the seven-hectare land occupied by the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF), sealing its entrances and exits with galvanized iron sheets, with armed policemen and private security guards including SWAT teams from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) swooping down on the area.

“We requested the former city administrator to allow the tenants a grace period in which time we shall help them find options. They were granted until January 17. Assistant Secretary ([Romel] Abesamis is helping us find DENR property as options for relocation. QC Circle is also an option. We also requested sana walang demolition,” Belmonte told The Manila Times.

“We don’t know what’s the rush all about. Up to this date nobody (from city hall) can tell us or show us what’s their plan for this land. We are not optimistic that they will stop the harassment. For them it’s a game,” Malou Cortez who lawyers for about 50 tenants or garden owners at the MSBF premises told The Manila Times.

Cortez said that they have no other choice but to charge the officials from Mayor Herbert Bautista, former City Administrator Victor Endriga and the bosses of the city public safety department and the QCPD for abuse of power.

“Options? Supreme Court [SC] intervention, applying temporary restraining orders and pursue Ombudsman case,” Cortez said referring to earlier cases filed and pending at the SC and the Office of the Ombudsman against city officials whom she said tried to take control of the premises without any court order at hand but only forcible entry and instruction for them to transfer at the Quezon City Memorial Circle (QCMC).

“How will we be able to develop the plants coming from Baguio or Cavite with a 43- square meter stall [at QCMC]without nursery [seedling banks]?” Cortez argued over the city’s offer to transfer them at the QCMC pointing that some of her clients even finance their garden maintenance through 5-6 scheme (shark loan arrangement).

Cortez also wondered how Endriga who was earlier pronounced to have retired from being the City Administrator became the Senior Adviser of Mayor Bautista.

“Why a special designation? Vice Mayor [Joy Belmonte] is also in the gray. We have an undertaking with the Vice Mayor who instructed Endriga et al, na wala munang gagalaw. She [Vice Mayor] felt that her trust has been violated as she already talked to Endriga and the new Administrator [former Bautista’s chief of staff Aldrin Cuna]for tenants to stay up to January 17 until an amicably solution is reached,” she explained.

Cortez added that one of the tenants Rex Fuente-Espina who owned the Davao Orchid has been able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the city court on December 28 last year to prevent the city from taking over the premises.

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