Traders accuse QC official of extortion

OWNERS of business establishments in a parcel of government land along IBP Road in Quezon City are up in arms following a move of a high-ranking city hall official to demolish their structures to allegedly pave the way for road construction and drainage improvement.

The National Government Center (NGC) Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Association Inc., in a letter to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, accused Secretary to the Mayor Taddy Palma of initiating the move for personal gains.

The businessmen claimed that the area is not flood-prone, hence, the reported drainage improvement was just a front for a more sinister purpose.

They alleged that Palma told them in a meeting last Oct. 8: “Alangan namang kayo lang ang kikita. Dapat ako din, kumita.”

During the meeting in Palma’s office at the Quezon City Hall, the city official allegedly demanded an “informal income” or “butaw.”

Palma reportedly justified the demand by saying that some P600,000 is being spent per month to pay the “Task Force Commo (Commonwealth Avenue),” which maintains order in the area.

The businessmen said they were forced to write a letter to Bautista when Palma sent them a notice ordering them to “self-demolish” not later than Nov. 2 this year.

This was followed by another notice reminding them to vacate the area by Nov. 2. However, the businessmen expressed confusion since the notice was dated Nov. 13, 2010.

“How come we are being ordered to vacate or self-demolish our business structures by Nov. 2 and Palma’s notice was dated Nov. 13?” Chito Umali, the group’s leader, asked.

When the government was planning to bid out the land, Umali said they were able to convince Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who was the city mayor at the time, to side with them.

“He told us to coordinate with the NGC and the National Housing Authority for us to obtain the land we are occupying, which we did and are now in the process of getting things done,” he said.

Umali said Palma probably decided to move now that Belmonte is no longer the city mayor.

He also cited a letter of Palma dated August 13 to their group that said the local government has nothing to do with the area since it was covered by the national government.

“And we were again surprised when Palma distributed the notices,” Umali said, referring to later notices urging them to vacate the area.

He expressed dismay over the non-action of Bautista on their letter.

Palma allegedly earlier tried to rid Litex and IBP Road of illegal vendors for the construction of a public market.

The city hall asked for P45,000 for the rights to occupy a stall inside the structure plus a P200 fee a day.

Meanwhile, vendors who wish to occupy a space outside the structure has to pay P15,000 for the rights and a daily fee of P180. Jing Villamente

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