Cebu City, Philippines – Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said Tuesday the welfare of 3,000 students enrolled at the Asian College of Technology (ACT) P. Del Rosario campus was the only consideration why he did not order the building closed.
Osmeña said in a press conference that “consistent” media reports convinced him that violations were indeed committed in the occupancy of the unfinished building owned by Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa.
“From the little that I know and what I see, the building should be shut down. The only consideration is the 3,000 students (who will be displaced if we do that),” Osmeña said.
He said Abellanosa will always be presumed guilty unless he is able to prove his innocence.
Osmeña said a building at least four stories high should have a functioning elevator.
Abellanosa’s 12-story building worth at least P500 million, has none.
If he were to have his way, Osmeña said classes should be suspended unless construction is completed. An option is to suspend any construction works during class hours.
Osmeña said he feels very “awkward” because of the misconceptions created by Abellanosa’s violation of the building code.
“I will lose my credibility if we don’t act on this. If we are strict to one (businessman), we have to be strict to all (including Councilor Abellanosa),” said Osmeña, who earlier ordered the restaurant, Yo Latino, closed because of the lack of occupancy permit and enough parking spaces.
Concerned about how the controversy will affect the city government’s relationship with investors, Osmeña signed two memorandums on June 30 to clarify his administration’s policy.
The first memo ordered Abellanosa to comply with the building rules and regulations and not to allow City Hall staff to follow up transactions between the city and ACT.
Osmeña’s memo also ordered Abellanosa not to summon City Hall personnel to his office to discuss personal business interests unless it was part of an inspection process.
The second memorandum was addressed to engineer Josefa Ylanan, city building official; Superintendent Ismael Codilla, city fire marshal, and Dr. Fe Cabugao, city health officer.
Osmeña told the officials in the memorandum not to give “preferential treatment” to Abellanosa just because he is a duly elected city official.
Meanwhile, Candelario Aytona, the officer-in-charge of the Commission on Higher Education, said the CHED would inspect the building on September, which is the agency’s usual schedule for inspections.
“We are currently busy attending to processing the papers of schools that are seeking initial permits for programs that they plan to offer,” he said.
Aytona also said that the activities of the regional office have been suspended pending the instructions of the new chairman, Romulo Neri. /Reporter Doris C. Bongcac with a report from Editorial Assistant Bernadette A. Parco