Efforts of concerned residents of Loay, Bohol to stop what they believed was an ongoing demolition of their century old municipal hall paid off after a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) was issued by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) against Loay Mayor May Imboy.
Maria Serena I. Diokno, chairperson of the NHCP signed the CDO.
This was Â confirmed by Imboy herself when the Chronicle asked for a confirmation of the reported issuance of the CDO by the NHCP on Friday, February 19, 2016.
“We received a fax copy of the CDO from the NHCP. I welcome the CDO to lay to rest the malicious accusations that I was reckless in the demolition of the municipal hall”, said Imboy.
ACTS OF DEFIANCE
But despite the receipt of the CDO by Imboy, demolition activities using jackhammers were still in progress yesterday, Saturday, February 20, 2016, according to a complaint filed at the Loay Police Station by Vicente Sagadaria, barangay tanod of Barangay Poblacion Ubos, Loay.
The reported continuous demolition activity was confirmed by Police Officer 1 Felix Cajaro to the Chronicle while Police Inspector Raymund Halasan said no copy of the CDO was furnished to the police station.
Considered as one of the oldest buillding in Bohol, demolition of the century-old structure constructed during the time of Civil Governor Aniceto Clarin between 1896 and 1900 to house the various offices of the municipal government reportedly began first part of January, 2016 using backhoes and jack hammers.
The demolition activities triggered community outrage that work was undertaken without following proper procedures reminiscent of the recent levelling to the ground of the town’s public market.
But Imboy told the Chronicle that the “building was structurally unsound and raised serious safety concerns” notwithstanding the fact that the building was occupied by municipal employees months after the 2013 earthquake.
The NHCP gave due course to the petition filed by fifty prominent citizens of Loay led by lead petitioner Rogelio Ganzon representing the “Concerned Citizens and Residents of Loay, Bohol” with two former town mayors – Dr. Jose Borja and Leonides Tiongco affixing their signatures on the petition.
Citing the historical significance of the Loay Town Hall, petitioners lambasted Imboy and local government officials for their “utter and reckless disregard of history and culture” in their rush to demolish an important historical landmark.
Fr. Ted Torralba, a Boholano priest and canon lawyer, in a text message to the Chronicle, a few hours after the issuance of the CDO said “OK. That should be the right one (referring to the CDO)”.
Torralba is the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and sits in the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA) Monuments and Sites National Committee.
As shown in the project billboard, the project cost for the rehabilitation (repair of damaged municipal hall) is P32.5 million and the contract amount is P32,399,155.04 and the implementing office is the mayor’s office.
The fund source of the project came from the DILG Bohol Earthquake Assistance (DILG-BEA) with project duration of 300 calenday days. Construction and the Notice to Proceed (NTP) was scheduled to start on September 18, 2015 by Square Cube Construction reportedly owned by Engr. Franklin Olaer, a Boholano.
But Engr. Liberato Lupot, structural engineer consultant of Square Cube told the Chronicle that contrary to fears raised by concerned residents of Loay, 1/3 of the original structure will remain while the rest will be demolished.
The plan is to preserve the original yakal flooring including the ceiling which will be retained while the column built with coral stones will be demolished but the stones will be restored in the new columns erected to strengthen the municipal hall.
The facade of the municipal hall will remain and additional wing will be added to accomate additional offices. The municipal hall, according to Lupot was hit by two earthquakes that compromised the structural safety of the building.
“We did everything to try to maintain the original structure, but this is about public safety such that additional columns will be erected to strengthen the building”, said Lupot.
The petitioners, in their three page petition also sought for an official declaration of the Loay Town Hall as an Important Cultural Property (ICP) under RA 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
The municipal hall, according to the petitioners “cannot be demolished or altered without the permission of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA).
The present construction activities is “clearly a violation of RA 10066” even as, the petitioners claim that a historical marker has been mounted as recognition of the historical importance of the town hall.
The demolition of the municipal hall was undertaken on the strength of two resolutions sponsored by Imboy’s daughter, municipal councilor Rochelle Brigitte Lim Imboy separately filed in a span of seven days.
The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Loay adopted the first Resolution No. 12-165-2014 on November 10, 2014 granting authority to the municipal mayor to “rehabilitate” the current municipal hall.
Seven days later, the second Resolution No.12-186-2014 was adopted by the SB granting authority to Imboy to “demolish” the municipal hall.
Both resolutions, was filed by the daughter of Imboy upon the request of her mother to “rehabilitate” and “demolish” the municipal hall to give way for the construction of a common government edifice to host government office of the LGU of Loay.
According to the later resolution to demolish “there are certain parts of the current municipal hall of Loay that needs to be demolished as part of its rehabilitation process”.
Meanwhile, a Department of Public Works and Highways(DPWH) 3rd District Engineering Office Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) resolution no. 015-15 ordered the cancellation of the project construction of the Loay municipal hall “due to failure of public bidding”.
In a resolution signed by members of the BAC on October 26, 2015, contractors who participated in the bidding for the contract were found “ineligible to bid for the project” and recommended for the “re-advertisement of the project construction of municipal building, Loay, Bohol”.
Based on the DPWH-BAC resolution, Poblacion Ubos, Loay Barangay Captain Primo Espiritu sought the assistance of Provincial Administrator Alfonso Damalerio, Chair of the BEA Project Management Team to “direct or order as your may allow, stop the ongoing acitivities of the Loay Town Hall”.
Espiritu also requested Damalerio to require Imboy to comply with the requirements under of the Local Government Code, Government Auditing Code, COA Circulars, relevant provisions of the National Commission on Culture and Arts Act of 2009 and Â RA 9184 known as the Government Reform Procurement Act of 2003.
An inquiry on the involvement of the LGU on the proper spending of funds coming from the earthquake assistance will start on Monday, February 22, 1016, according to Damalerio as BEA funds are downloaded to the LGU’s while the provincial government acts as the fund administrator.
The town of Loay is home to the actual site of the Blood Compact between Legazpi and Sikatuna in Barangay Hinawanan and cultural properties and historical landmarks that include the Clarin Heritage House, Loay Watchtower the Santissima Trinidad Church which is now undergoing massive retrofitting after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol in October 15, 2015.
To prevent the future destruction by government officials of the municipal hall, petitioners asked the NHCP to officially declare as an important cultural property or cultural heritage property the Loay Municipal Hall.
The demolition of the town hall will “obliterate part of the history and culture of the people of Loay which is a cherished part of their cultural heritage and history”, read the petition.Â (Chito M.Visarra)