Heroes losing land to squatters at LibinganBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A senior lawmaker on Saturday sounded the alarm over the proliferation of informal settlers at Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), the final resting place of former presidents, war veterans, ranking military officers, notable government officials and national artists.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon asked the House committee on national defense and security to look into the matter and come up with recommendations on how to deal with the informal settlers.
The squatters have apparently ignored warnings from the government and continue to occupy portions of the cemetery, “a situation which may later on affect its function as a final resting place for deserving Filipinos,” Biazon said in a statement.
“The Libingan ng mga Bayani may no longer be the resting place for deserving Filipinos and soldiers who died in the line of duty because a big portion of it is currently being occupied by informal settlers,” he said of the 117-hectare military cemetery in Fort Bonifacio.
Noting that the cemetery is a “national shrine,” the congressman called for an inventory of the number of plots still available and asked the House committee to determine “what to do with (the) informal settlers.”
Biazon cited an earlier court ruling that found Erlinda Belaya, an informal settler, guilty of violating provisions of the Urban Development and Housing Act after she “occupied the land which is classified as a national shrine without the approval of the Department of National Defense and Philippine Army Task Group Bantay.”
The congressman said the task group “repeatedly and consistently conducted dialogues with the informal settlers to translate (in) layman’s terms the factual information in order to convince them to vacate the (cemetery) peacefully.”
A 2007 Inquirer report said only about 16 hectares of burial space were left at Libingan, which was established in 1947.
According to the website of the Makati City government, over 44,000 military men have been buried at Libingan as of 2009, including over 32,000 World War II veterans. Also interred at the cemetery are two presidents, Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal.