Local housing office probes relocation property sale scam

The Iloilo City government is looking into the alleged sale of relocation sites that are supposed to be awarded to deserving individuals. (Francis Allan Angelo photo)

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo City Local Housing Office (ICLHO) has been inundated with over 80 complaints regarding the alleged sale of houses and lots in the city’s relocation sites.

The complaints claimed irregularities in the sale process, implicating individuals identified as Eric Tijam and Catherine Columna.

The two were said to have been receiving money from complainants in exchange for purported reservations at relocation sites.

Chairman of the Committee for the Urban Poor Councilor Ely Estante confirmed receiving reports of questionable transactions.

“Sini lang may complaint nga may ara transaction sa bahin sang PECO village nga ginbakal sang isa ka babaye, that is P260,000. Naglibog ang ulo sang nagreport ngaa kuno ang tag-iya waay man kabalo, in fact waay man ka pirma nga may balayran kay ti sa form may nakabutang man nga not for sale,” Estante said in an interview on February 13.

(Just recently, there was a complaint regarding a transaction involving a property in PECO village that was allegedly sold to a woman for P260,000. The person reporting was puzzled as to why the supposed owner was unaware of it; in fact, there was no signature indicating any payment on the form, which also stated that the property was not for sale)

Estante added that he had received similar complaints in the past, with some victims claiming to have paid the same individuals for reservations and additional fees for housing units or lots.

He emphasized concerns about Tijam, who continues to conduct transactions despite no longer being authorized.

City Hall sources told Daily Guardian that the scam has been going on for a long time and did not just involve Tijam and Columna.

The sources said former elected and appointed officials at the City Hall also took advantage of the housing program of the local government by selling house and lots instead of awarding them to deserving persons.

In response to the allegations, the ICLHO is considering declaring Tijam a professional squatter to take legal action against him by the complainants.

Tijam and Columna, who were previously site coordinators of the Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office (ICUPAO), were relieved from their positions last year due to similar complaints.

Notably, the revelation of the alleged land sale scam involving the two was also cited as one of the reasons for the resignation of Roy Firmeza as ICUPAO head last year.

Residents are encouraged to engage directly in transactions with ICLHO to avoid being scammed.

The ICLHO, established to oversee the city’s housing programs under the leadership of Atty. Peter Millare, is set to convene a meeting to discuss the necessary action to address the issue and uphold the rights of residents seeking affordable housing solutions in the city.