2 leaders of vendors’ group gunned down amid fight to stop eviction
Two leaders of a vendors’ group fighting the government’s plan to close a public market were shot and killed by a lone gunman in Trece Martires City in Cavite province on Wednesday night, police said.
Supt. Egbert Tibayan, city police chief, said investigation is ongoing to identify the suspect in the slaying of Merly Valguna, 50, president of the Trece Martires City Market Annex Association, and Rodora Mallari, 47, another leader of the group, who were attacked in the market on Wednesday night.
Manny Asuncion, of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Cavite, said Valguna and Mallari were talking with each other when the gunman, who wore a helmet, shot them at close range.
Asuncion said the vendors were up late to guard against a plan to lock up stalls in the market in preparation for the market’s closure.
Two days before the killings, members of the city government’s licensing division and civil security group tried to close the market, using padlocks and wires.
Nancy Herrera, of the city’s licensing office, said the vendors did not have business permits.
Herrera said the city is implementing the city’s closure order issued in July 2014.
The market building, she said, had been closed that year “but some vendors kept on coming back.”
In 2014, the vendors’ association sued Mayor Melandres de Sagun and real estate developer YIC Group of Companies Inc. and property holdings Citisquare Property Management Inc.
In their complaint, the vendors argued that the closure order was illegal since they had paid for a 25-year lease contract with the developer, Prestonburg Development Corp., in 2002.
The market, built on a 2,597-square-meter property, was built through an agreement between Prestonburg and the city government. The developer, in 2003, turned over the market to the city government, which took over management of the market.
In 2013, the city government announced a change in management and advised the vendors to pay their dues to YIC Group of Companies Inc. instead. The city also stopped issuing business permits to the market vendors.
The Inquirer on Thursday tried to reach De Sagun but calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.
Herrera said the city is bent on enforcing the closure order even after the killings.
Information from the law office of Evelyn Dominguez, the vendors’ counsel, said the Regional Trial Court Branch 23 in Trece Martires has yet to issue a resolution on the case.
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