Tuesday, February 27, 2007

MMDA demolition in Paco terrorized poor dwellers

Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C.
Telefax: 4264118 Tel.: 4264119 / 4267615

Ref: John Francis Lagman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17

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MMDA demolition in Paco terrorized poor dwellers

27 February 2007. A violent demolition today, this time in Paco, Manila hurt scores of residents living under the San Andres Bridge 1 along South Super Highway and displaced some 54 urban poor families. Accompanied by armed policemen, the demolition was carried out by more than 200-strong demolition team from Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

It was already 2:30 in the afternoon when 64 year-old Natividad Navarro was hit by a bottle on her knee, and then suddenly she heard the gunfire and explosions. At first she was shocked and terrified, she waited for the noise to die down. But after a while, when she realized that the gunfire and explosions were not going to stop, she ran away with her 2-year old granddaughter, aiming to get out of the demolition teams and seek the safety on a nearby tree beside the highway. “Mga hayop sila, di sila makatao,” Navarro cried out.

After several armed assaults, many children including her granddaughter were crying out in terror. “Di ko na alam ang aking gagawin. Ang pag-aaral ng mga apo ko nasira na. Wala naman kaming pupuntahan,” Navarro said.

Before the clash started, Fr. Jorge Anzorena, a famous Jesuit priest, architect and Ramon Magsaysay awardee helped in the resident’s negotiation with MMDA. Before the violence started, Fr. Jorge said the barangay chairman and the residents had requested that they be given 30 minutes to get some of their personal belongings. The MMDA, however, went ahead which made the chairman angry. Warning shots rang out from the guns of MMDA personnel and the armed police escorts.

“How could you destroy their lives, their livelihood, their future? This is very disgusting in a country with so much suffering,” Fr. Anzorena told the MMDA.

Anzorena recalled that only yesterday, in a meeting at the barangay hall, the MMDA and personnel from Manila City government promised the residents that they will delay the demolition for one week as the residents look for relocation site.

“This is something difficult to understand…making poorer the poor. A government which is suppressing the people,” Anzorena added. “It’s very sad, how people could do this,” he said.
People were shouting while their barangay captain Alfredo Tan was being beaten like a dog by swarming MMDA personnel. According to the residents, 5 more men including a barangay councilor had been hit in their head and were brought to a nearby hospital.

Her worst fear was confirmed when Alberta Abenaza saw the poor families sprawled all over. Abenaza, president of Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT), a people’s organization, felt betrayed as she was tricked by the MMDA personnel. “Tinawag nila ako para mawala ako sa barikada. Wala na ang mga gamit ko, ninakaw lahat ng MMDA. Hayop talaga,” Abenaza said.

While the leaders were away to discuss everything in a meeting with a certain Engineer Baal of Manila City Engineering Office and only barricade of children were present, the demolition teams began to surround the bridge and drive away the residents. When the barangay captain arrived, he was so upset and angry with the deception. “Huwag munang magdemolis, may negotiation pa,” the barangay captain told the notorious demolition team.

Aside from the 54 families under San Andres Bridge 1, some 87 families under South Super Highway Bridge 1 in San Andres Bukid were also forcibly evicted beginning this morning, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), an NGO helping the poor families in eviction crises. “More than 100 families may sleep on the streets tonight because they have no relocation site. The MMDA used a ploy by giving away 5,000 pesos for each family instead,” the UPA said.
There were uniformed policemen present when the assault occurred. The police tried to arrest angry residents who started to throw things in the air while the noise started.

Anzorena believe that the number of violent demolitions will continue as long as the government is going against its rule. “It was painful. I think the politicians should really care for the poor,” Anzorena said

The government action to demolish and evict the petitioners without consultation and more importantly, without any provision for adequate relocation as mandated by the Constitution and Republic Act 7279 also known as Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) is gross violation of the law, according to UPA. -30-

For additional information please contact UPA at 4264118.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Urban poor women and children to fight against illegal demolition

Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C.
Telefax: 4264118 Tel.: 4264119 / 4267615

Ref: John Francis Lagman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17

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Urban poor women and children to fight against illegal demolition

The country’s slum dwellers are always the first to suffer when government pushes its development projects. This time, however, poor families living under San Andres Bridge 1 along South Super Highway in Paco, Manila are intending to put up a fight against Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Threatened with illegal demolition, the settlers are planning on Tuesday, February 27, to form a barricade of women and children to resist any attempt to tear down their houses along Estero Tripa de Gallina. “Lalaban kami kung kailangang magbuwis ng buhay. Di baleng mamatay ako, madinig lang, pansinin lang ang problema,” said 47-year old Alberta Abenaza, president of Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT), a people’s organization.

Since 2001, Abenaza has written letters asking for relocation assistance to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Presidential Action Center, National Housing Authority (NHA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DPWH, MMDA, Church groups, and several Manila City officials.

“Di naman po kami tutol sa proyekto, ang hinihiling lamang po namin ay mabigyan ng pag-asa upang mabago at maitaguyod ang aming pamilya sa maayos na pamumuhay,” said Abenaza.

Personnel from MMDA and DPWH have verbally informed the residents last February 21 that they will be forcibly evicted due to the repair of the bridge.

The settlers who have lived for more than 14 years at the community filed their petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction last January 12 at the Manila Regional Trial Court to prevent their eviction and the demolition of their houses. The presiding judge of the case is Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag of RTC Branch 1.

The people charge that the government “action to demolish and evict the petitioners without consultation and more importantly, without any provision for adequate relocation as mandated by the Constitution and Republic Act 7279 also known as Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) is gross violation of the law,” said Atty. Bienvenido A. Salinas 2nd, coordinator of the legal unit of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), St. Thomas More Law Center. “It also runs afoul of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),” he added.

In a meeting with the residents held in Brgy. 734 last January 24, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza promised that there would be no demolition as he looked for a relocation site.

SAINT appealed anew last February 21 in a letter to Mayor Atienza to halt the demolition. “Dumating na po sa sukdulan ang pinangangambahan namin. Hirap, pagod, gutom at takot na kami. Ikaw lang po ang makakatulong sa aming problema sa ngayon,” the letter read.

Atty. Christine Anne Marie R. Alcazar of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) issued a certification dated February 23 saying that MMDA and DPWH has not applied for a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for the February 27 demolition of some 54 families under the bridge.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order No.152 designated the PCUP as the sole clearinghouse for the proper conduct of demolitions and evictions involving the homeless and underprivileged and establishing a mechanism to ensure strict compliance with the requirements of just and humane demolition and eviction.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued last January their Pastoral Statement for this year saying: “We call on those concerned to stop uncaring evictions and demolitions. We have laws in the land that tell us the proper processes for eviction. Let these laws be respected and followed, especially by law-enforcing agencies.”

Urban Poor Associates (UPA) is a non-government organization established to assist urban poor people in eviction crises, educate families in housing rights matters and upgrading of poor communities. -30-

For interviews with Urban Poor Associates (UPA) or additional information please contact UPA’s Media Advocacy Officer, John Lagman on (632) 4264118.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

6,000 voters in Makati denied right to suffrage?

Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C. Telefax: 4264118 Tel.: 4264119 / 4267615
Ref: John Francis Lagman http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17

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6,000 voters in Makati denied right to suffrage?

15 February 2007. As politicians prepare for May elections, former railway dwellers in Makati City who were relocated at the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao, Laguna are facing a legal battle to preserve their right to vote.

Up to 6,000 voters may be denied the vote this upcoming election due to the largest displacement of people in the history of the Philippines, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

This developed after petitions for exclusion of voters has been raffled off and assigned to Judge Roberto Buenaventura of Branch 63 and Judge Carlito Calpatura of Branch 62 of the Makati City Metropolitan Trial Court. Judge Buenaventura will hear a case starting today, while Judge Calpatura will hear the other cases starting tomorrow.

Respondents were former residents of Barangay Magallanes, Bangkal, Pio del Pilar and San Antonio along the PNR railway tracks.

Petitioner Edgardo Collado and Oscar Ibay filed the petition February 2. The petitioners argued that respondents, having permanently transferred their residence, their names should be cancelled and excluded from the list of voters considering that they have ceased to be bona fide residents of Makati City.

One of the basic human rights recognized in the international instruments of human rights is the right to vote as guaranteed by the Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The said right is reiterated in Article V of the Philippine Constitution.

“Libo-libong relocatee ang hindi makakaboto dito dahil ayaw silang pabotohin sa Makati at hindi naman sila registered sa Cabuyao. Ang Comelec dito, sa haba ng pila, alas kwatro pa lang ng madaling araw sarado na dahil 300 lang kasi ang pwedeng magparehistro bawat araw. Isa pa kailangan ng 6-month residency para makapagparehistro,” said Estrella Terencio, president of UPSAI. “Ang kailangan namin dito ay special registration dahil sa 7,000 families na na-relocate dito halos kalahati ay di pa nakapagparehistro.”

The respondents appeal to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) invoking their right to vote. “Sana ay mabigyan sila ng special consideration dahil hindi naman nila ginusto ang kanilang kalagayan. In the first place, the laws are made for man and to protect his/her right,” said Atty. Bienvenido Salinas 2nd, coordinator of UPA’s legal unit, St. Thomas More Law Center.

In a demolition drive that began since early 2005 and still continues in Pandacan, more than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan due to the rehabilitation of the Philippine railway system.

To 26 year-old Marnellie Buenviaje, there is almost no reason to be happy on Valentines Day. “Last year masaya, kasi kasama ko ang asawa ko. Pero ngayon ang hirap, wala siya, wala akong katuwang sa pagpapalaki sa mga anak ko. Pero kapag pinanghihinaan ako ng loob, kawawa ang mga anak ko.”

Buenviaje’s husband died in a motorcycle accident last year right before her family was relocated beside a dumpsite in Southville as part of the government’s Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project. Instead, the single mother of 3 spent her Valentines with a paralegal training seminar held yesterday in Cabuyao for the Urban Poor Southville Association Inc. (UPSAI).

Members of UPSAI sought the help of Urban Poor Associates (UPA) regarding their security of tenure, problems on distant relocation and basic services.

UPA research reveals that most of the evictees have been moved to relocation sites where living conditions are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity, transport, medical, education and livelihood programs.

The dengue outbreak and unsanitary conditions in Southville have claimed the lives of 15 children. “This contradicts the promise of politicians in their manifesto and platform in the recent elections. Those are promises believed to have garnered electoral support among poor,” the UPA said in a statement.
Urban Poor Associates (UPA) is a non-government organization that concentrates on evictions of urban poor people and upgrading of poor communities. -30-

For interviews with Urban Poor Associates (UPA) or additional information please contact UPA’s Media Advocacy Officer, John Lagman (632) 4264118.