Retired public servant Mrs. Concepcion Sulla, retired DENR employee Mr. Romeo De Ocampo, Atty. Conrado Boro (retired) and his wife, retired UP employee Anita Boro, retired UP employee Mr. Fernando Camba, Mr. Roy Marquez, ex-military Mr. Rimando, Atty. Celestino Alcantara (retired) and his wife Delza Alcantara, retired UP employee Edilberto Andaquig and his children: JP Andaquig and yours truly, Jezzamine Andaquig. We were the ones who attended the public hearing today, 23 February 2016, on our complaint against the Dominer Pointe Inc./BellTel Phils. cell site. However, Mr. Jess Santiago dropped by just to say this one thing to me: “Tell them the cell site is near the school. Sorry I cannot attend.” Then he quickly left. Others could not come because of other commitments.
On the other side: Dominer Pointe Inc.’s Robert Bondad Jr., BACDDC’s Nathaniel Cadiao, and another guy. Also, officials of Amityville Homeowners Association represented by Edilberto “Butch” Braganza, president; Louie Rosario, director; Nick Braganza, director; and Jonathan Agravante, informal settler.
Members of the panel: Councilor Arman Leo Angeles, Coun. Mario Roderick Lazarte, and Atty. De Guzman (legal counsel). Coun. Rommel Ayuson’s name was on the table but he did not join us in the hearing. But before the hearing I saw Coun. Ayuson going inside the Vice Mayor’s office just beside the Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall. We were eyeball to eyeball. He was the first to look away. (He doesn’t know me, by the way.)
Guests: Ms. Agnette Peralta, Director at the Bureau of Health Devices and Technology, Department of Health (she was accompanied by four student physicists). And a representative from the Provincial Government of Rizal (Assessor’s Office).
The session began with a prayer. Then introduction of participants. After a brief remarks from Coun. Angeles, he asked what was it again that we’re complaining about with regard to the cell site (this was his same question during the first hearing). He called my name to be the first to speak.
Standing up, I said I wanted to ask the Dominer Pointe Inc. representative Mr. Bondad what was his designation since he’s only introducing himself as representative. Coun. Angeles stopped me and said that he’s asking for my statement and it’s not time to ask questions. Keeping my emotions in check, I uttered only one line: Alisin nyo yung cell site sa tabi ng bahay namin. Something like that. Then I sat down. Coun. Angeles asked me to elaborate. I stood up again, Alisin nyo yung cell site dahil wala itong consent from us. Walang ginawang General Assembly ang officers and directors ng Amityville Homeowners Association, hindi nila sinabi kung ano itong cell site, magkano ang renta, at hindi kami tinanong kung pabor kami dito lalo na kami na malapit sa cell site, Andaquig family at Camba family. Dahil kung alam lang namin na may itatayong cell site hindi kami papayag dito. I remember myself saying. Then I sat down.
It was Atty. Alcantara’s (retired) turn. He’s wondering why a cell site was allowed in our subdivision without an environmental compliance certificate. Mr. De Ocampo was also asking the same thing. They spoke with a lot of questions, doubting the integrity of the proposed cell site.
Atty. De Guzman from the panel answered us back. He said the officials of Amityville Homeowners Association (AHA) conducted a survey with the homeowners and residents. That they complied with all the requirements yada, yada, yada. I was seething. I spoke to ms. Delza who was beside me. They’re just saying they have complete documents so where are the documents, I said to her in a whisper. I wanted to speak, so I raised my hand. Coun. Angeles was ignoring me. I was raising my hand to counter-rebuttal Atty. De Guzman’s claim that the officials of AHA surveyed the residents. I wanted to express that those residents who signed are majority informal settlers and construction workers of the cell site. But Coun. Angeles was ignoring me. He paid attention to Coun. Lazarte who gestured at him. Coun. Lazarte suggested that our petition letter on our complaint against the cell site be read for the convenience of our guest from DOH and of everyone. So Coun. Angeles asked his secretary to read it at the front. While she was reading it, I was kind of disappointed. She was having difficulty pronouncing the English words and sounded monotonous. I should have written it in Tagalog. And I should have edited it well.
Coun. Angeles said he’s confused with our complaint. He couldn’t see what was the issue. We answered in chorus. I shouted, “Right to health.” Then Mrs. Sulla stood up. That the cell site will affect children, especially those students of a school that’s also beside the cell site. And its effect will not be immediate but gradual. It would take time for diseases to foster.
I raised my hand again. Some of us were raising our hand. Coun. Angeles chose to divert the attention to Dir. Agnette Peralta of DOH to speak. Dir. Peralta stood up and asked if she could use a microphone. She began by thanking the council for inviting her and in a sort of a knee-jerk reaction, I stood up then blurted out: Dir. Peralta, ako po nag-invite sa inyo. Hindi sila. Dir. Peralta diplomatically thanked me for the correction and for inviting her to the public hearing. Then came the unexpected, she lectured for a long 30 minutes where 90% of which I didn’t understand because she was speaking in technical terms. But she corrected that one I mentioned in my letter describing the cell site as “radioactive.” She said it was a wrong term. She said cell site is not radioactive. Then I heard Nick Braganza, one of our opponents/an AHA director who looked like an informal settler, laughing.
Atty. Boro looked at me and whispered (who’s sitting at the second row seats, I was at the third row seats), Ano ito lecture? Magtanong ka na. I raised my hand. Dir. Peralta allowed me. I asked what’s the minimum safe distance between a cell site and a residence. Oh my God, she was answering in a lengthy, technical terms. Basta what I vividly remember, the radiofrequency radiation (the proper term) of the cell site will only affect people if you touch the antenna or something. I raised my hand again. I said no government study has been conducted ever about the dangers of cell site radiation. But I did research and that there are articles saying that this radiation from cell sites causes cancer but will only appear gradually. Dir. Peralta refuted my statement and said that there have been a lot of studies already but even a single document of those studies she (Dir. Peralta) did not bring. She spoke in great length again, I was no longer listening. But I did pick up one that I did understand. She said you only get cancer if you eat a lot of tocino and other unhealthy food. I was raising my hand. Atty. Alcantara was raising his hand, too. I feel like we’re on the losing end because Dir. Peralta was speaking in favor to our opponents: Dominer Pointe Inc., BACDDC, officials of AHA, even the two councilors and Atty. De Guzman. Oh dear. That’s why after Dir. Peralta’s long speech, I heard Coun. Angeles say, “That’s it everyone. You heard that. We’re not the ones who invited DOH here.” Something like that, as if to imply that me inviting them even helped them, not us, prove their argument that the cell site is okay in a residential area.
I cannot remember the sequence but I do remember my brother standing up expressing that just in case the issue on health will be removed as one of our grounds against the cell site because of what Dir. Peralta had explained with great conviction and in great length almost like a litany, there is still that issue on consent. He said there is still that question on the validity of the survey conducted by Mr. Braganza et al. Atty. Alcantara then complained to the panel about not giving us the space during Dir. Agnette’s “lecture” to question her. It was almost like no interruption. When Atty. Alcantara asked something and Dir. Peralta was about to answer with a laugh, Atty. Alcantara got pissed off. He scolded her and asked her why she’s laughing. Atty. De Guzman (from the panel side) was also saying something when Atty. Alcantara lashed out: Anong ginagawa mo dyan? Anong role mo dito? Coun. Angeles was the one who answered him he said he is the municipal’s legal counsel. Umalis ka dyan. Di ka dapat dyan nakaupo kundi dito sa mga upuan sa harap (the warring parties/audience seats). I was raising my hand, calling Coun. Angeles attention because he was ignoring me when next thing I know I heard cuss words being exchanged between Atty. De Guzman (from the panel) and Atty. Alcantara. Coun. Angeles was banging the gavel on the table to stop the commotion. It was almost like the two attorneys would get into fistfight that Mr. Arnel Bautista intervened already. Coun. Angeles was repetitively banging his gavel demanding from us to submit a position paper instead. I was calling him, raising my hand, I wanted to share something, he was still banging the gavel loudly then after giving instruction on the position paper that we will submit he and the rest walked out. There was still a commotion. The sentiments that my fellow residents spoke fell on the staff who got no authority.
After the hearing, I approached Dir. Peralta who was in the Vice Mayor’s office, at the staff area. We talked. I shared with her that the Supreme Court already has an order that a cell site in a residential area is not safe. The residents won and it was against Smart Communication. She was shaking her head as if to connote that what I was saying was invalid. Again, she talked lengthily a sign of a person who gained higher studies from abroad that most of it I did not understand. So I asked, May cell site po ba sa tabi ng bahay nyo? She said her uncle’s house is near a cell site. Then she talked in litany again. Again I asked, Pero may cell site po sa tabi ng bahay nyo kayo po sa personal life nyo, may cell site din po ba sa tabi ng bahay nyo? She said no. I replied, “So hindi nyo po kami maiintindihan, yung sitwasyon namin.” I was questioning her. She was answering me back with great conviction and perhaps getting impatient, she said, “I’ve been working and doing studies in DOH since 1975 which you weren’t even born yet. I studied at the University of Wisconsin… and in October this year, I’ll be retiring.” I asked if they’ve conducted a study examining those residents near a cell site 5 or 10 or 15 years later. She said no and they don’t conduct study like that. They just measure the radiation something of an existing cellular tower. And she said she’ll just leave those documents that I might need at the Vice Mayor’s office. Right this minute, Atty. De Guzman squeezed into our conversation and advised me to just submit the position paper. Tapos na yung issue sa health. Issue on consent ang i-focus nyo na lang. Something like that. He sounded encouraging this time unlike when he was sitting at the panel he sounded like he’s the legal counsel of our respondents. I said my goodbye and thank you to each of them. They were both diplomatic towards me.
At the parking area, under a shelter as we wait for our father to fetch us since my brother JP is still slow to walk because of his leg injury, we heard a motorcycle approaching and as we looked to where the sound was, we saw Coun. Angeles who was smiling at us. We smiled back.
Mr. Arnel Bautista of the Office of Sangguniang Bayan
While waiting for the hearing to start.
Councilor Mario Roderick Lazarte. In fairness to this guy, the public hearing wouldn’t have turned chaotic if he was the one who presided. He seemed like a good person and not what I think he is–a totally bad person–just because he was one of the councilors who gave approval to the cell site. And I think this needs investigation, hmm.
Coun. Arman Leo Angeles, the presiding officer.
Atty. De Guzman
Dir. Agnette Peralta of the Department of Health
P.S. I sort of gatecrashed into a meeting happening inside the Vice Mayor’s office. (Of course, with consent from a staff.) Inside the room were Dominer Pointe Inc.’s Robert Bondad Jr., Coun. Angeles, Coun. Lazarte, and Vice Mayor Jonas Cruz. Since I’m inside, spontaneously I asked the vice mayor why did he approve the cell site without consent from us residents. He answered there was a survey, then he turned to Coun. Angeles as if to ask for support to his statement. Coun. Angeles said it’s the officials of our association that we should ask. Then looking at vice mayor Jonas, Pero kahit naman in-approve ng officials namin hindi nyo ba chineck man lang kung may consent talaga (like a document to prove it), I said something to that effect. Realizing that I would still get nothing by asking questions, I said I came in to the room just to say thank you to Coun. Lazarte for that tiny gesture he displayed during the hearing that me and my brother appreciated.