Marawi evacuees in a bind over housing units bought in Iligan

ILIGAN CITY -- Hundreds of families that fled following the Marawi siege last year are now in quandary over the houses they purchased from a government-funded resettlement site originally intended for typhoon victims in this city.

City Information Officer Jose Pantoja said all housing units sold by typhoon Sendong victims living in Bayanihan Village in Barangay Sta. Elena will be padlocked on Monday (April 2).

Pantoja said the local government reached the decision after a dialogue last week with the beneficiaries of Bayanihan Village -- a low-cost housing site for victims of typhoon Sendong, which struck this city and several parts of Northern Mindanao in 2011.

An investigation by the local government showed that about a thousand units had been illegally sold, mostly to the Marawi siege evacuees, Pantoja disclosed.

While the LGU sympathizes with Marawi residents, he said the law is clear pertaining to government-funded housing units for the poor and victims of calamities.

"Republic Act 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, clearly prohibits recipients of government-awarded housing units from selling their property," Pantoja said.

One of the buyers, a Marawi resident who fled last year's five month-long siege by Maute terrorists, said their main problem was recovering their money as most of the sellers had already disappeared.

"We were assured by the seller that there was no legal hindrance in this purchase," he said. "It's a pity because we have already made improvements on this house."

He also expressed disappointment over the impending confiscation of their purchased homes, saying Marawi residents like them would have wanted to get a new lease on life in this city after last year's traumatic event in their hometown.

But Pantoja assured that the unsuspecting buyers will not be held responsible.

The sellers, however, will be penalized by re-distributing their units to other Sendong victims, he said.

"The government will award the returned units for Sendong survivors who until now don't have their own homes, and are willing to live at the Bayanihan, he said.

He added that some recipients may have sold their units because they did not like the location of the resettlement site.

Pantoja also belied allegations that the existing occupants who bought their units from original recipients were harassed into giving up their units.

Mayor Celso Regencia is dealing with this in peaceful manner to resolve this matter, he said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency