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To reclaim a village

Ihave devoted a number of my articles to the “sad plight” of the residents of Monterrazas Village, that peaceful and relaxing community in Itogon which is adjacent to Baguio City — used to be, I mean.
For now, serenity has become a word so strange for every Monterrazas resident which they could only cherish as something of a memory from a distant past.
While Monterrazas Village is nestled deep into the heart of the country’s summer capital, its residents are mostly absentee homeowners who built their second home up there in the highlands to escape the noisy and polluted living in Metro Manila’s fast lane whenever they have the chance. That’s how much they value the calmness of a relaxing abode Monterrazas has to offer.
Unfortunately for them, everything changed during that fateful day in September of 2016 when 16 homeowners and non-homeowners of Monterrazas Village allegedly held an illegal election with no quorum, in violation of homeowner’s Constitution and By-Laws.
As their constitution explicitly states that their election should be held in Metro Manila where most homeowners reside, and should be carried out with at least 64 members in attendance, the 16 homeowners and non-homeowners pushed through with the elections. And the after-effect was devastating.
First, the alleged “illegally” elected homeowners (as other residents) described them in their protest), opened the gates of the village to trucks en route to a mine pit south of the community.
Then, they allowed tricycles and jeepneys to put up their own terminals at the gate the village. Hence, gone were the days when a Monterrazas resident would look forward for a relaxing stay at his upland home.
Of course, these were not taken by the vilage residents sitting down. They questioned the manner by which the officers were elected, filing a protest before the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) in Baguio City headed by lawyer Ligaya Liclican-Haban, who upheld the election results.
This however, was reportedly overturned by the HLURB Legal Department which ordered the holding of a special elections immediately.
Unfortunately, the Legal Department was overruled by the HLURB Commissioner Luis Paredes, an appointee of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, who reportedly has been overstaying in his office, upholding Liclican-Haban’s earlier decision.
As an afterthought maybe, Paredes then referred the case to Maria Luisa Pangan, a director of the HLURB Appeals Review Group who decided on her own on the appeal the homeowners have not even submitted yet.
Not surprisingly, Pangan denied the homeowners protest, signing the decision with her title “Director, Appeals Review Group.”
This again was quite puzzling as it appears she decided arbitrarily without consulting the other members of the group.
But in fairness to Gary Lasquite, the one elected as president of the homeowners in that “illegal” election in September 2016, and the other members of his board, they have since tendered their resignations upon realizing they might have erred big time in the conduct of their elections.
So currently, only two of those elected in September 2016 remain – one Wanda Joseph, whose entry to the MHAI Board has been accorded to her, courtesy of her homeowner daughter and Socorro Flores. With only two “elected” board officers, who then will act as president, treasurer and secretary? Who will act as collector and auditor? What happens to the check and balance within the board?
While logic, legality and practicality dictate that a special election be held immediately to address those issues, Joseph and Flores have opted not to and just run the association by themselves, even appointing a barangay secretary as administrator.
So, what’s my interest in this intra-homeowners’ squabble when I don’t own even a square foot of property there? It’s about the environmental degradation when these allegedly illegally elected officers allowed their village to be used as entry point to a mining pit down the village. As any environment-loving citizen, I abhor that act.
Now, what are the options still available for the homeowners? Of course, they still can pursue their appeal before the HLURB and maybe direct it to its chairman, Eduardo del Rosario and maybe even to the Palace, this time.
And while waiting for the decision, they could force the issue by forcing Joseph and Flores to hold an election as soon as possible. Anyway, the next regular elections, based on their Constitution, should be held by March.
And I believe they have the numbers to do so. But only by working in unison could they regain the peace and tranquility they used to enjoy in Monterrazas and thereby reclaim their village.
Only they have the power to do so.

Last modified on Monday, 05 March 2018 16:45

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