(CASE FOR HERITAGE. Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales beams as City of San Fernando Mayor Edwin Santiago, Asst. Sol-Gen Joseph Guevarra, Sol-Gen lawyer Eric Labadia and city legal officer Atlee Viray show to media copies of the complaint filed earlier at the Regional Trial Court. Photo by Bong Lacson)
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – “Atin ku pung singsing. Metung yang timpukan… Mewala ya iti, E ku kamalayan… (I once had a ring. That had a single gem… But it disappeared, without my knowledge…),” so goes the immortal Kapampangan folk song which now aptly describes the reclaiming of the historic Paskuhan Village here after it was sold to a private corporation.
Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales said the “singsing” or ring is the Paskuhan Village which was suddenly lost due to its sale by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) to Premier Central, Inc. on May 4 2015 for almost P1 billion But now, he said, he found it again.
“This is the result of our Resolution No. 654, in aid of legislation, to conduct an inquiry on the sale of Paskuhan Village,” he said. “After conducting a series of hearing, we prepared a committee report.”
The hearings were conducted under the Good Government Committee and Public Accountability in the House of Representatives chaired by Surigao Del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel.
Gonzales said he was given an assurance by Solicitor General Jose Calida that the government never loses a case like this one.
Gonzales said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also expressed hopes that the Paskuhan Village be returned to the city government and to the TIEZA because it is both a historical and a cultural heritage site.
“We have only three Christmas villages in the world – one is in the USA, the other in Germany and in Asia here in the Philippines in this city,” he said.
“This is not my personal fight. This is the fight of our province. This is the fight of our government and particularly the City of San Fernando,” the Kapampangan solon said.
“This is not for our generation, but for the next generations to come,” he added.
That is why tomorrow, Gonzales said, he will introduce a bill to make the Paskuhan Village a historical, cultural, heritage and public domain so that whoever is in power can longer sell the place.
On Tuesday, Mayor Edwin “Edsa” S. Santiago and Assistant Solicitor General Joseph Guevarra filed a civil case at the regional trial court against TIEZA and Premier Central Inc. Guevarra filed the case in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines.
A press conference followed later at the city hall where the officials expressed optimism that the court will uphold the civil case versus the defendants.
Santiago said the land came from the Lazatin family through a deed where the purpose was specified for a lantern village. In short, it was for a cultural heritage.
The mayor said the lanterns of San Fernando or “parols” are known the world over and for that, this city has become known as the lantern capital of the world.
“It is only but proper that the lantern village be located here and that was how Paskuhan Village came to be. It was right in our midst, but we lost it,” Santiago said.
Now, the mayor said, we are thankful that the Solicitor General, the lawyer of the Republic, has taken steps to file a complaint for the rescission of the sale. Guevarra said he cannot comment on the merits of the case after it was filed in court.
But he said: “We have assessed the evidence and based on the assessment that we have conducted, we found that there are courses of action that would merit the fi ling of the case against the defendants.”
“We are fighting for the right to recover our own – Paskuhan. I am sure with your help through public opinion, the courts would favor us,” the mayor said.
The Paskuhan Village, located at the junction of the Jose Anad Santos Avenue and the North Luzon Expressway, was established in 1989 by then Gov. Bren Z. Guiao with the help of then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor.