BATTLE FOR BACLARAN

MANILA, December 30, 2003  (STAR) By Nikko Dizon - The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has requested the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) to provide its sidewalk clearing operation personnel police escorts in Baclaran from dusk until midnight.

"While we have police escorts, they usually leave us by 6 p.m., then we are left on our own," Bobby Esquivel, head of the MMDA sidewalk clearing operation unit, said at a press conference yesterday.

Esquivel said Senior Supt. Luisito Maralit, chief of the NCR Traffic Enforcement Group, is preparing a request to NCRPO chief Ricardo de Leon to provide police escorts to the MMDA from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Esquivel said the MMDA would need at least 30 policemen to provide security.

"Mas nakakapag-harass ang mga vendors kapag gabi," Esquivel said.

The request came after MMDA sidewalk clearing personnel and illegal vendors figured in another violent clash Saturday night.

A 10-year-old boy, two MMDA personnel, and some vendors were injured in the incident.

MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando ruled out arming MMDA personnel to protect themselves against the illegal vendors.

"Aasa na lang kami sa mga pulis. That’s their job," Fernando said.

However, the MMDA chief warned that there would be no let up in the agency’s campaign to rid Redemptorist Road of illegal vendors even on Dec. 31 and New Year’s Day.

Fernando renewed his appeal to the local government units (LGUs) to support his campaign to remove illegal sidewalk vendors.

"Huwag sanang paasahin ng LGUs ang mga illegal vendors," Fernando said.

Over the weekend, he said the non-cooperation of some LGUs "is the biggest handicap" in instilling order and discipline among the public.

Fernando and Parañaque City Mayor Joey Marquez have locked horns on the Baclaran issue, especially after the mayor supported a city council ordinance for an "Agro-Industrial Fair."

Marquez refused to comment yesterday.

But Fernando said he welcomes having different views and opinions with Metro Manila mayors as these would help in finding a permanent solution to the Baclaran problem.

Redemptorist Road was cleared of illegal vendors for several months until a few days before Christmas when the sheer number of vendors that flocked to the area simply overpowered the MMDA.

Unlicensed Firearm

A day after a violent dispersal in Baclaran, joint operatives of the Parañaque City police and the Special Action Force (SAF) apprehended a 36-year-old vendor found in possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Superintendent Ronald Estilles, Parañaque police chief, said violation of the Commission on Election gun ban and illegal possession of firearms would be filed against Ricardo Costorio, a resident of Barangay Gumaoc, San Jose, Del Monte, Bulacan.

Based on a report submitted by Inspector Glenn Tigson, chief of the Parañaque police Criminal Investigation Division, Costorio was caught with a caliber .25 pistol with four bullets during a clearing operation.

The MMDA, assisted by an SAF team, went to Baclaran at around 10 a.m. last Sunday. At the height of the dispersal, they saw a gun tucked in Costorio’s waist and immediately brought him to the police station.

Costorio has been a stay-in at his cousin’s stall in Baclaran selling bags in the last 10 years.

When the police asked the suspect where he acquired the pistol, he denied owning it. "A friend and I were merely using toy guns. But when I was apprehended, I got scared and threw the toy away."

Estilles and Tigson doubted his story.

"Ano yan magic. The apprehending lawmen found the gun in his possession so how can he say that the officers planted the gun," Tigson said.

Meanwhile, a 37-year-old vendor would be testifying against a fellow vendor who allegedly led two others in smashing and burning an MMDA outpost on Roxas Boulevard last Saturday.

Police said the witness, a resident of the Muslim Compound along Roxas Boulevard, allegedly saw Morokodiah Sulutan Langit, of 26 Maharlika Village, Taguig, and two others destroy the outpost.

Probers said the glass walls of the MMDA outpost were smashed before the suspects torched it at around 10 p.m. – With Evelyn Macairan, Edu Punay


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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