Cebu Church condemns ‘gross disrespect’ of Holy Mass by LGU, PNP

Cebu Archdiocese, students score loud music, armed demolition of stalls, privatization of historic Carbon Public Market

The Archdiocese of Cebu condemned the city government and a development corporation on their rude disruption of a Holy Mass its priests were celebrating with Carbon Market vendors last Monday.

In a statement, the Cebu Archdiocesan Social Advocacies (CASA) office said some employees of the local government and Megawide Corporation intentionally began playing loud music to disrupt the solemnity of the activity.

“We denounce the gross disrespect of this religious activity and urge of the City Government to take action against the personnel involved,” Cebu Archdiocese Vicar for Social Advocacies Fr. Nazario Ace Vocales said.

CASA said Monday’s Mass was being celebrated in solidarity with Carbon Market vendors who face “unjust demolition” of their stalls as the city government rushes to “modernize” and “beautify” the area.

Videos posted on news outlets and social media platforms showed the police assisting demolition teams dismantling stalls at the market.

The University Student Council of the University of the Philippines in Cebu (UP-Cebu USC) also condemned the incident and the “illegal and excessive use of armed troops to demolish stalls” in the market.

The students added that the police refused to turn off the loud music despite repeated requests from the Mass attendees and the priests.

Cebu City Philippine National Police deputy director for operations Lt. Col. Janet Rafter they deployed 200 officers to “secure the area” during the demolition.

Small retail vendors affected by the demolitions are fighting the city government’s plan to transfer them to Bagsakan Market eight kilometres away from where they have been practicing their trade for more than a hundred years already.

They say the city government has no right to proceed with the demolition pending the resolution of their appeal before local courts.

Cebu’s historic market

The city’s oldest and largest public market, Carbon Market was named after the Cebu Railroad coal depot that first occupied the location.

It has since grown to become a major tourist attraction in the city because of its prime location and its famous inexpensive items such as souvenirs for Cebu’s many tourists.

Accessible to many forms of public transportation, Carbon Market also supplies almost all of the food items city residents need.

Fr. Vocales said selling at the market is a vocation to the vendors.

“Generations of these vendors have sustained us through the fresh produce and affordable goods that they provide,” he said.

In 2020, the city government entered into a 50-year agreement with Megawide for the market’s “redevelopment” to include “lifestyle establishments” and so-called mixed use developments.

A plan to transform the market into a transport hub to include a water taxi service to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport was also mentioned.

City market administration Wendell Censas however said Monday’s incident was a clearing activity as Mayor Michael Rama “wants the road cleared.”

Government’s heavy-handed tactics against the resisting vendors are earning condemnations from Cebu residents, however.

The celebration of the Holy Mass rudely disrupted by the police and city government personnel. (Photo by the UP-Cebu USC)
Demolition of market stall by the Cebu City LGU. (Photo by the UP-Cebu USC)
Affected small market vendors shedding tears as they watch their stalls being demolished and their Holy Mass rudely disrupted. (Photo by the UP-Cebu USC)
Priests asking the police to turn off the offending music is being ignored by the police while demolition continues in the background. (Photo by the UP-Cebu USC)

‘Forgetting manners and conduct’

Cebu Parish Pastoral Council president Elias Baquero went on Facebook to denounce the police for its participation in Monday’s incident.

“As president of a Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), I condemn the policemen who disrupted the Holy Mass in Carbon Market, July 18, 2022. Attention President Bongbong Marcos Jr. and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG),” Baquero said.

“While I highly respect the Philippine National Police (PNP), I lost my respect to these policemen in Cebu who forgot good manner and right conduct,” the lay leader fumed.

Fr. Vocales said the vendors are being driven away during a time of economic uncertainty in a privatization scheme to benefit only a few investors [and] at the expense of vendors and consumers.

“[W]e stand with the vendors in their call to modernize the Carbon Market with the participation of all stakeholders and without depriving them of their livelihood and the consumers with the affordable price of basic commodities,” Vocales added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)