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On the purging of Manila

We’ll bring back the Old Manila. How it was designed by our forefathers. You may be from Taguig, Parañaque or Makati, you may have all those modern buildings, but they have no character.”

“That is the uniqueness of the [C]ity of Manila.”

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In an interview with Esquire Magazine, Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso stressed his promise to clean up our country’s capital. He is also keen on alleviating poverty, preserving historical infrastructures and improving societal conditions.

“Masyado nang kita ’yung pagka-dugyot ng Manila… It cannot be denied,” Domagoso said. “I’m not proud of it, as a Mañileno. And the more you deny it, the more you will not solve it. So that will be addressed in a couple of months.”

Days after this interview, Domagoso started to make good on his promise. Along with members of the Manila Police District, Domagoso cleared the impassable streets of Manila of garbage and illegal street vendors in just two days. Pictures of clutter-free and wide alleys and streets of Divisoria, Quiapo and Recto graced social media.

Domagoso’s clearing operations have been lauded, such that, among others, commuters and motorists found travelling easier. Nevertheless. illegal street vendors are worried about losing their source of income. Vendors reportedly returned to the sidewalks of Divisoria, hours after Domagoso warned them not to bribe any government official in exchange for allowing them to sell. In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Haslim Casin, who was among those vendors, said that while Domagoso meant well, vendors like him needed to earn a living.

Meanwhile, according to news reports, former President and Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada said that illegal street vendors should have been resettled first before displacing them. “[D]apat meron kang paglilipatan para kumita ’yung mga tao. Kawawa naman ’yong mga taong nagugutom.”

When and where Domagoso intends to resettle the illegal street vendors remains to be seen, but his authority to conduct street-clearing operations in the City of Manila is undeniable. Under the Local Government Code (LGC), the mayor is mandated to enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city.

In this regard, by virtue of its duty to provide transport and traffic management, urban renewal and land use planning, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issued Resolution No. 02-28, prohibiting the use of streets, sidewalks, avenues, alleys, bridges, parks and other public places in Metro Manila for commercial and personal purposes. The prohibited acts include, among others: (a) selling of food, magazines, newspapers, cigarettes, brooms, watches or jewelries, shoes and other footwear, and/or any other items; (b) conduct of “religious” activities, such as preaching and seeking alms; and (c) dumping garbage. LGUs are authorized to confiscate the goods sold along such public areas without prior notice, and dispose them like common or ordinary garbage. LGUs shall not be liable for any damage arising from such removal, confiscation or disposal of said goods.

Any use of such public areas on a temporary basis and for a definite period shall require a special permit from the concerned LGU and MMDA.

Meanwhile, in affirming then San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Vicente Macalino’s authority to conduct clearing operations in a public plaza in Villanueva v. Castañeda, Jr., the Supreme Court held that the street vendors therein obstructed the flow of traffic, contributed to the filthy condition of the public market, and denied the people of the proper use of the public plaza and thoroughfares. Public areas shall be kept free and clear for public use. Therefore, structures in these areas constitute a nuisance subject to abatement according to law.

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It should likewise be emphasized in the Villanueva case that properties for public use are beyond the commerce of man and cannot be the subject of lease or any other contractual undertaking. Thus, LGUs will exceed their authority in executing lease contracts with vendors over public areas which they cannot dispose of.

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TAGS: Isko Moreno, Manila, MMDA
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