Sunday, August 31, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY : Urban Poor Set to March to CHR for Eviction Moratorium

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

Urban Poor Set to March to CHR for Eviction Moratorium

Five hundred urban poor people will march to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday (September 2) to meet with CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima in order to discuss the moratorium on forced evictions until the laws governing evictions and relocation are clearly agreed upon by all government agencies and the people concerned.

The idea of such a moratorium was suggested by government officials and various people’s groups associated with the Task Force Anti-Eviction. The people agree it is necessary. Too many families are being evicted in violation of the law, the people say.

People from urban poor communities around Metro Manila will march towards CHR at 8:00 AM beginning in front of the National Housing Authority (NHA) office at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City.

Photo ops: People will have someone to impersonate MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando as “the devil with horns and tails.” There will be a skit and hopefully agreement about the moratorium.

Assembly point: National Housing Authority, Elliptical Road, Q.C.

Date: September 2, 2008 (Tuesday)

Time: 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Venue: Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Commonwealth Avenue, UP Complex, Diliman, Q.C.

Friday, August 29, 2008

THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE HOUSING: THE LEGAL FIELD

Prepared by Atty. Michael Vincent S. Gaddi, Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan)

GENERAL STATE POLICIES

•Article 25 (1) UN Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

•Article 11 (1) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR):

The states parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to continuous improvement of living conditions. The States parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

•Section 9, Article XIII 1987 Philippine Constitution:

The State shall by law, and for the common good undertake, in cooperation of the private sector, a continuing program for urban land reform and housing which will make available at affordable cost, decent housing and basic services to the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas. It shall also promote adequate employment opportunities to such citizens. In the implementation of such programs, the State shall respect the rights of small property owners.

•Section 10, Article XIII 1987 Philippine Constitution:

Urban and rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner. No resettlement of urban or rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be located.


THE RIGHT AGAINST FORCED EVICTIONS AND DEMOLITIONS

•Section 28, Urban Development Housing Act (UDHA):
Section 28 of the UDHA lays down the mandatory requirements for a just and humane eviction and demolition. Non compliance with any of the following requirements renders the eviction or demolition unlawful:

•Notice upon the affected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition;

•Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;

•Presence of local government officials or their representatives during eviction or demolition;

•Proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition;

•Execution of eviction or demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays and during good weather, unless the affected families consent otherwise;

•No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for structures that are permanent and of concrete materials;

•Proper uniforms for members of the Philippine National Police who shall occupy the first line of law enforcement and observe proper disturbance control procedures; and

•Adequate relocation, whether temporary or permanent: Provided, however, That in cases of eviction and demolition pursuant to a court order involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, relocation shall be undertaken by the local government unit concerned and the National Housing Authority with the assistance of other government agencies within forty-five (45) days from service of notice of final judgment by the court, after which period the said order hall be executed: Provided, further, That should relocation not be possible within the said period, financial assistance in the amount equivalent to the prevailing minimum daily age multiplied by sixty (60) days shall be extended to the affected families by the local government unit concerned

•Executive Order No. 152 (2002) & Executive Order No. 708 (2008):

•To implement Section 28 of the UDHA, Executive Order No. 152 was passed in 2002 designating the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) as the monitoring agency and sole clearing house for the conduct of demolition and eviction activities involving the homeless and underprivileged citizens

•Under the Executive Order, government agencies proposing to undertake demolition and eviction activities are required to secure first from either the PCUP Central Office (in case of national projects) or from the PCUP Regional Office (in case of regional or local projects) the checklist, guidelines, and compliance certificates on demolition and eviction prior to the actual implementation thereof and thereafter, submit to the PCUP the completed checklist, attested to under oath by the proponent.

•Executive Order No. 152 (2002) & Executive Order No. 708 (2008):

•However, due to the passage of Executive Order No. 708 (series of 2008), such clearing house task of the PCUP has now been devolved to the city or municipality having territorial jurisdiction over the demolition and eviction.

•EO 708 cites the established policy of local autonomy and decentralization as basis for such devolution. But before each city and municipality can take on the task as a clearing house, the executive order mandates that each city and municipality must first create, via an ordinance, its own local housing board (or any similar body) which will carry out the clearing house function of PCUP within its territorial jurisdiction.



•Repeal and Attempted Revival of the Anti-Squatting Law: House Bill No. 1087

•A proviso in HB 1087 states:

–Provided, that any person or group of persons who with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will, and having received a written demand to either vacate or pay rent from said landowner, shall refuse to do so within a period of ninety (90) days, shall be considered a professional squatter within the purview of Republic Act No. 7279.



•Repeal and Attempted Revival of the Anti-Squatting Law: House Bill No. 1087

•Section 1 of PD 772 states:

–Any person who, with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will for residential commercial or any other purposes, shall be punished by an imprisonment ranging from six months to one year or a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand pesos at the discretion of the court, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.




•Repeal and Attempted Revival of the Anti-Squatting Law: House Bill No. 1087

•Recent Favorable Developments on HB 1087:

–Inputs of Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of various NGOs & NGAs were considered by the author and resulted in a Substitute Bill entitled “An Act to Institute Reforms in the Anti-Professional Squatters/Squatting Syndicates Drive of the Government, Strengthening the Mechanisms therfor, and for Other Purposes”

–This drastic change in the bill’s tenor proved to be a very fortunate turn of events for the urban poor sector for the attempt at reviving PD 772 had been thwarted.



•Blatant Violations by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – Examining the Legality of MMDA Resolution No. 03-96 and MMDA Resolution No. 02-28

•MMDA Resolution No. 03-96:

–adopts a uniform easement provision along the Pasig River system including its tributaries, maintaining a linear park or service road at the minimum setback of ten meters (10 m.) from the existing shoreline, banks, or streams

–and three meters (3 m.) from the existing esteros and canals, without prejudice to the LGUs' prerogative to impose more stringent easement provisions."




•Blatant Violations by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – Examining the Legality of MMDA Resolution No. 03-96 and MMDA Resolution No. 02-28

•MMDA Resolution No. 02-28

–seeks to clear the sidewalks, streets, avenues, alleys, bridges, parks and other public places in Metro Manila of all illegal structures and obstructions

–allowing the MMDA to clear and confiscate whatever effects as garbage




•Blatant Violations by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – Examining the Legality of MMDA Resolution No. 03-96 and MMDA Resolution No. 02-28

•MMDA Resolutions No. 03-96 and 02-28 are invalid under the following arguments:

–The MMDA is a mere coordinating body NOT bestowed with any law making powers.

–The MMDA is NOT a local government unit possessing the delegated power to legislate in exercise of its police power. Its main task is just to lend a helping hand to cities and municipalities in the delivery of basic services.

–The resolutions violate the constitution, national laws (Civil Code, Water Code & UDHA), as well as international covenants (ICESCR)



LAWS & ISSUANCES AFFECTING HOUSING

•Presidential Proclamations: Executive Order No. 131 (s. 2002) and Memorandum Order No. 74 (s. 2002)

•Besides protecting the right against forced evictions and demolitions, the UDHA also upholds the right to adequate and affordable housing. As to what kind of lands can be subject to socialized housing, Section 4 of the UDHA states:

–SECTION 4. Coverage. — The Program shall cover all lands in urban and urbanizable areas, including existing areas for priority development sites, and in other areas that may be identified by the local government units as suitable for socialized housing

•Presidential Proclamations: Executive Order No. 131 (s. 2002) and Memorandum Order No. 74 (s. 2002)
•In relation to this, Section 5 states:
SECTION 5. Exemptions. — The following lands shall be exempt from the coverage of this Act:

(a) Those included in the coverage of Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law;
(b) Those actually used for national defense and security of the State;

(c) Those used, reserved or otherwise set aside for government offices, facilities and other installations, whether owned by the National Government, its agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or-controlled corporations, or by the local government units: Provided, however, That the lands herein mentioned, or portions thereof, which have not been used for the purpose for which they have been reserved or set aside for the past ten (10) years from the effectivity of this Act, shall be covered by this Act;

(d) Those used or set aside for parks, reserves for flora and fauna, forests and watersheds, and other areas necessary to maintain ecological balance or environmental protection, as determined and certified to by the proper government agency; and

(e) Those actually and primarily used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, cultural and historical sites, hospitals and health centers, and cemeteries or memorial parks.

The exemptions herein provided shall not apply when the use or purpose of the abovementioned lands has ceased to exist

•Presidential Proclamations: Executive Order No. 131 (s. 2002) and Memorandum Order No. 74 (s. 2002)

•The exemption in Section 5 refers to idle government lands, the purpose of which have been rendered nugatory owing to non-use for ten (10) years from the effectivity of the UDHA. Said government lands can be the subject of socialized housing and thus be distributed for such purpose. To distribute such lands for socialized housing, a presidential proclamation must first be issued by the President of the Philippines.

•To fully implement such UDHA mandate, two presidential issuances have been enacted -- Executive Order No. 131 (s. 2002) [EO 131] and Memorandum Order No. 74 (s. 2002) [MO 74]. In presidential proclamations for socialized housing, the basic idea is that if there are government lands which have become idle, based on the legal definition crafted in Section 5 of the UDHA, said lands may be identified, proclaimed, and thereafter distributed for socialized housing purposes to qualified beneficiaries.


•Aptly entitled “DECLARING OPEN TO DISPOSITION FOR SOCIALIZED HOUSING PURPOSES CERTAIN GOVERNMENT-OWNED LANDS DEFINED UNDER REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7279, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING ACT OD 1992, AND PROVIDING FOR DISPOSITION THEREOF”, the third whereas clause of EO 131 encapsulates its main objective:

•“WHEREAS, mass housing may be effected, among others, through the regularization of land tenure of informal settlers on government-owned lands which have not been used for the purposes for which they have been reserved or set-aside for the past ten (10) years from the effectivity of the UDHA including government-owned idle lands and alienable lands of the public domain and are suitable for socialized housing;”

• Thus, EO 131 provides a veritable opportunity for informal settlers living on government-owned lands to gain security of tenure over the land on which their houses are built. However, EO 131 merely deals with what is called a “pre-proclamation phase” meaning that its main aim only covers the identification and preparation of the subject government lands, and not the actual distribution and disposition of the same. To address this issue of distribution and disposition of proclaimed lands, MO 74 was likewise issued to compliment EO 131.

•MO 74 appoints the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as the lead government agency to realize the distribution and disposition of proclaimed government lands. Such task is of course in coordination with other relevant government agencies as well as the local government units where the subject land is located. As clearly stated in Section 1 of MO 74:

•“SECTION 1. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) shall confer with the Local Government Unit (LGU), within fifteen (15) days from the issuance of the Presidential Proclamation, for the purpose of facilitating and expediting the conduct of post-proclamation activities necessary to dispose of the proclaimed site to their actual bona fide occupants, to the end that these informal settlers are finally granted the titles to the lands they are occupying at the earliest possible time and in order that these lands are developed as a viable community through participatory planning and utilization of appropriate development schemes.”

•Executive Order No. 272 (s. 2004)

•It cannot be gainsaid how the government’s Community Mortgage Program (CMP) has immensely assisted numerous urban poor home owner associations (HOAs) in obtaining security of tenure over the land on which they were once considered as “squatters”. Originally implemented by the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), the program works to ease the HOAs’ burdens in paying for their purchased land with friendly terms and conditions.

•With Executive Order No. 272 (EO 272), the NHMFC has been mandated to create a subsidiary corporation which will focus exclusively on implementing the government’s Community Mortgage Program, because pursuant to its charter, the NHMFC is not the one officially tasked to implement the Community Mortgage Program. Thus, the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) was created via EO 272 to be the exclusive implementor of the government’s Community Mortgage Program.

•Proposed Legislation Relevant to Land Use and Land Distribution: the National Land Use Act (NLUA) and the Local Housing Board Law (LHB) [NOTE: both proposed measures are still pending in either the Senate or House]

•The National Land Use Act (NLUA) envisages a method by which land use may be planned at the national level. However, it is pertinent to consider the reasons why there should be land planning at any level. Indeed, while many Local Government Units (LGUs) have produced comprehensive land use plans, these are not a requirement. Under Article 13, section 1 of the Constitution, the state reserves the rights to regulate and to dispose of land. Similarly, under Article 12, section 6 of the Constitution, it is recognized that the state can interfere with private ownership for the common good. These provisions acknowledge that private interests over land can never be absolute and conversely that land has an existence independent of its private owners. One main reason for this is that the use of land affects not only its present users but also the land surrounding it and land’s future users.


•Proposed Legislation Relevant to Land Use and Land Distribution: the National Land Use Act (NLUA) and the Local Housing Board Law (LHB) [NOTE: both proposed measures are still pending in either the Senate or House]

•Local housing boards are local special bodies tasked to formulate, develop, implement, and monitor policies on the provision for housing and resettlement areas, and on the observance of the right of the underprivileged and homeless to a just and humane eviction and demolition.

•Local housing boards bring together two salient mandates in the Article on Social Justice and Human Rights, to wit: the undertaking to establish a continuing program of urban land reform and housing and to respect the right of urban or rural poor dwellers to be evicted in a just and humane manner, and the observance of the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making.

iWitness: Pier 16

08/19/2008 | 12:06 AM




They move from one place to another, rain or shine, they bring along their families cramped in a trailer van. This August, Kara David bears witness to the life of trailer van assistants.

Assistants to trailer van drivers or pahinantes usually travel from city to province taking with them family members. They reside in a trailer van with address at Pier 16! Just like a typical house, the trailer has facilities too. The van's chassis becomes their basement, the road serves as their kitchen, and nearby drainage functions as their toilet.

Pahinantes are modern-day Filipino nomads that reflect the country's poverty. Evelyn brings her child every week to the hospital due to persistent coughs and colds while Leonard studies under the pier's lamp post. Everyday, they scramble up the pier's fence to avoid getting caught by guards.

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Palipat-lipat ng lugar, karay-karay ang buong pamilya, umulan man o umaraw, nagsisiksikan sa iisang trailer van. Ngayong Agosto, ang buhay ng mga pahinante ang susundan ni Kara David.

Bumabiyahe ang mga pahinante mula lungsod hanggang lalawigan angkas ang buong mag-anak. Sa trailer van na sila nakatira, at ang kanilang address -- Pier 16! Itinuturing na nila ang sasakyan na kanilang mansyon kung saan dito na sila namumuhay. Ang chassis ng van ang siya nilang silong, ang kalsada ang kusina, at ang kalapit na estero sa pier ang palikuran.

Sila ang makabagong "nomadic" na Pinoy, ang salamin ng kahirapan sa Pilipinas. Si Leonard, pilit na nag-aaral sa ilaw ng poste ng pier. Si Evelyn naman, linggo-linggong dinadala ang anak sa ospital dahil sa pasakit na ubo at sipon. At araw-araw, sumasampa sila sa bakod ng pier makaiwas lang sa mga mata ng tagapagbabantay sa compound.

Monday, August 25, 2008

David Balondo of Tondo (1922-1988)

Commentary : David Balondo of Tondo (1922-1988)

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: August 25, 2008

MANILA, Philippines - Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino led an army of rich and poor heroes who were willing to give their lives for their people during the night of martial law. One of the lesser known persons was David Balondo of Tondo who was once a guerrilla in Samar against the Japanese, once a fisherman in Isla Puting Bato, Tondo and for a long time the vice president of the Zone One Tondo Organization (Zoto).

Twenty years ago when he was 66, Balondo was shot dead by young radicals in front of his new house in the Dagat-Dagatan Relocation Area of Navotas. It was a mindless decision to kill the old man. His wife heard noises in the street; as she ran out expecting trouble she heard shots, and then she found her husband on the ground dying of wounds to his head. Two young gunmen stood around and announced they were NPA. They looked nervously at the old woman and her dying husband and then ran off.

From the 1960s on, Balondo led the people's efforts to resist government attempts to throw them off the Tondo Foreshore land. In the end the people succeeded. The original government plan called for all 30,000 families in the Foreshore area to be relocated to some far off place like Sapang Palay. The Tondo land was planned to be a commercial, up-scale housing area and support zone for the new international container terminal. Instead, after a long struggle with the help of the World Bank and the German government, only 10,000 families had to move and these were relocated only a few kilometers north to Navotas; the other 20,000 families had their land upgraded and titled.

It didnít come easily. Hundreds of Zoto people went to jail; a number were tortured, including ìTriningî Herrera, the Zoto president. Balondo was arrested five times. Despite all this they struggled through the 1970s and won.

In Dagat-Dagatan they received a 96-sq m lot with toilet, light, water and a cement platform for their house. They paid P1 per sq m each month for 25 years and then they owned the land. Most importantly, they were only five minutes from their jobs. One day in Dagat-Dagatan I asked a Zoto woman leader how she liked her new house. ìIím in Paradise,î she told me.

Balondo never had the chance to grow old peacefully, with time to sit around chatting with the other old men and women and watch the children playing in the street, as the Prophet Zechariah promised the faithful would do one day in the future. (Zechariah 8:4-5)

He was happy in his new home in Dagat-Dagatan. I doubt if anyone now remembers the specific incident that caused the assassination, and it doesnít matteróhe didnít deserve to die like that. Nor did he deserve the movie made of his life, starring Ramon Revilla. It made Balondo a swashbuckling action star with a special agimat. His devout Methodist wife became a starlet in a miniskirt. Instead, he deserves the gratitude and respect of people because of his contribution to solving the problems of the poor in peaceful ways.

There were leftist influences on Zoto as there were on nearly all social action groups in those days, but Balondo was more interested in the concrete issues of the poor more than ideology. He was a simple man who talked slowly as if words themselves were very valuable. He always looked worn out and weary.

One night at a Mass said by the late Archbishop Mariano Gaviola, I was with the German government official in charge of overseas funding. We were in the back of a huge crowd. Balondo came over to us and the three of us talked while the bishop gave his homily. Later the German said to me, “He was like Job.” That night Balondo even had boils on his face as Job had.

He was Protestant and the most honest of all the people involved in Zoto, including the other officers, the organizers and the priests and Protestant ministers who helped the organization, the late Jesuit Fr. Joe Blanco, who was part of the Zoto organizing team for several months, once said.

Everything about the long struggle of the Tondo people, except the prison and torture, has lessons for today. People must always struggle together for what they consider their vital necessities in life. There is no other way. The government of President Ferdinand Marcos realized after years of hostility to Zoto that it was easier and more productive to negotiate with peopleís groups than to insist on fighting them. In the final years of the 1970s the government did negotiate and compromise. The value of genuine negotiation still has to be learned by many in government today.

Finally the World Bank and the German government chose the good of the poor of Tondo and not the plans of government as their priority. They told the martial law government that they would fund the development of the container terminal and harbor but only if the people were treated fairly. Such a stand on conviction is seldom seen these days.

Every group needs courage; the poor need the determination of a David Balondo to struggle. The government needs courage to slow down and negotiate: the officials who do so will be criticized by hard-liners inside and outside government. Finally the multinational and national donors need courage to prioritize the good of the poor, since the good results of such choices often take years to become visible.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His email address is upa@pldtdsl.net.

Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NGOs nix Inter-Agency Committee headed by MMDA, BF

** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

NGOs nix Inter-Agency Committee headed by MMDA, BF

13 August 2008. Urban poor non-government organizations have expressed opposition to a proposed Executive Order that will set guidelines on the work of the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee (MMIAC) in the fields of eviction and relocation.

Their opposition is to the presence and leadership of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and its Chairman Bayani Fernando in the MMIAC.

“The MMDA history in dealing with the urban poor renders it unfit to lead or head the MMIAC as provided by the Executive Order. We see no reason why MMDA itself should be a member of this MMIAC,” the Task Force Anti-Eviction said in a statement.

Among those who expressed grievances were NGOs such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippines Enterprise (COPE), St. Thomas More Law Center, John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI), Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) and Partnership of Philippine Support Agency (PHILSSA).

Urban poor people often term Bayani Fernando (BF) as “berdugo” of the urban poor, the statement said. He has merited this title because, “he uses force and intimidation in dealing with the urban poor. He treats the poor as garbage, nuisances and eye sores, and evicts them summarily with total disregard for their rights in the most inhumane manner and contrary to the provisions of the law.”

At a forum dubbed “Human Rights and Access to Justice For the Poor” held in Ateneo last August 4, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima mentioned several instances where the MMDA demolished the homes and houses of the urban poor without due notice and without providing for relocation.

“In 2008 alone, from January to May, there have been 25 reported cases of demolitions, eight of which require our quick response team to investigate. Out of the eight quick reaction team investigations, four cases involved the MMDA. In two cases involving MMDA, there was a finding of human rights violations,” CHR Chairperson de Lima said.

As an alternative to BF and the MMDA, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) – National Housing Authority (NHA) should be named as the lead agency of the MMIAC, according to the Task Force Anti-Eviction.

“There are at present 2,140 families who have been evicted, but have not been relocated. They lived in 14 areas. They live now in makeshift huts in the streets along the banks of canals and in other unfit places. The first order of business should be to relocate them,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA. Añana was appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the permanent representative of urban poor sector in the MMIAC. -30-

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Teaching kids to dream beyond Baseco

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:53:00 08/03/2008

THE MINUTE HE EXPERIENCED MAKING art with crayons on a clean sheet of paper, sixth-grader Rodel Candano started to dream about becoming an architect.

Though still in grade school at age 13, Mayka Rosaros learned she could aspire to be a doctor.

From their crowded regular classrooms, a select group of elementary school pupils from poor families has been chosen to take remedial instruction in a study center at the Baseco Compound in Manila. Here they learn to aim big with the help of two tutors who make up for what their regular schools lack.

Regarded as mentors more than tutors, Laarni Salanga and Ivy Espineli, graduates of the University of the Philippines, are providing a hands-on learning experience to a select group of Grade 5 and Grade 6 students in the port village.

Salanga and Espineli take turns teaching morning and afternoon tutorial sessions in English, Math and Science at the Edukasyong Kabalikat Para Sa Kaunlaran (EKK) learning center, a one-room facility established by Kabalikat, a Baseco people’s organization, and Urban Poor Associates, a nongovernment organization, with a P300,000 donation in 2003.

“Sometimes when we ask kids what they want to be, they say ‘I want to be a seaman, a porter, a vendor in Divisoria.’ They do not dream of bigger things. Nobody said ‘I want to be a doctor.’ But we tell them this is not all of the world. There’s a bigger world outside Baseco,” said the 25-year-old Espineli.

EKK’s thrice-weekly sessions (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) with 25 students per grade level are helping to bridge the learning gaps for low-performing students of Baseco’s public elementary schools.

“In school, they average 70 to 90 students per class, so only those in the front rows get to understand their lessons. If you’re in the back, you will be left behind. That’s what we notice. That’s why children lose enthusiasm for going to school,” said Salanga, 29, who finished English Studies at UP Diliman.

Tutoring pupils at the center has become a mission for Salanga and Espineli who have shunned better opportunities normally available to young people of their age and accomplishment.

Espineli, who majored in Social Science at UP Manila, started work at EKK three days after she graduated in April 2003.

Family obligations made Espineli, the third in a family of four children, take a three-year respite from EKK to take a teaching job in Thailand. She taught at an exclusive, all-girls school in southern Thailand and later became assistant director of the Thaksin University’s Institute for Foreign Languages.

“I had to go there to support my youngest sibling’s [nursing] studies. He graduated in March, that’s why I’m back. My obligation is over,” she said.

Salanga, who was looking for a part-time job to support her graduate studies, joined EKK the year that Espineli left. She said it was the kind of challenge she had long been looking for to escape a “boring” job at the family printing business in Caloocan.

“For an English Studies graduate like me, there are many opportunities. It’s easy for me to go but I do not feel like it. I feel like there’s no need for me to leave. And what’s good here is we get to express our creativity,” said Salanga.

They receive compensation that they regard as better than what other schools would pay, but they consider the experience of becoming more than a tutor to their students a far greater reward.

“We are able to provide individual attention and the child sees that the teacher is concerned. Once you get their trust, they will already share with you what’s happening in their homes, they will open up. They treat you as a friend,” said Espineli.

The center, which follows the regular school calendar, annually admits 25 of the poorest performers—or those with a grade average of 79 percent and below—in the last two grade levels whom they prepare to enter high school.

A token fee of P1 is charged for each session. The idea is for the students and the parents to have a “sense of ownership” of the program, said Espineli.

The job of selecting those that need help falls to the Baseco parents who identify barely passing elementary school pupils in the community and enroll them at EKK. Salanga and Espineli said they sometimes have to knock on doors to encourage participation.

The tutors hold three-hour sessions for each grade level, dividing the time among English, particularly reading and grammar, basic Math and Science. Fridays are reserved for art and music lessons which many of the kids enjoy the best.

And throughout the sessions, the pupils are taught to observe good manners.

Once, a student who came in 15 minutes late for a Friday afternoon session had to apologize to the group, to which a classmate replied in English: “Next time, come early.”

Encounters with Baseco kids have opened the tutors’ eyes to “realities” that are peculiar to the place.

In the port village, a former shantytown that had been dismantled many times before by fires and demolitions, sixth-graders often include students old enough for high school.

Finding the answer to 5 minus 4 is a stretch for fifth-graders, and graduating students struggle to read “run” or “fun.”

“You wonder whether there was a student who could read well,” said Salanga, adding that sessions at times had to go back to primary-level lessons.

Many also go to school with empty stomachs.

“You’d see that immediately in the child. You’d think he’s just not that smart but you realize that hunger is the reason why he performs poorly in school. It’s either they went to school without eating, or they were beaten by their parents,” said Salanga.

To enhance comprehension, the teachers would use the pupils’ experience to simplify the lesson.

“In addition or subtraction, we ask them how much will be left if you take P2 from P5. And most of them immediately understand because at times their parents make them hawk [items] in Divisoria,” Salanga said.

But what would prove to be useful in class was also a factor for pupils missing the sessions. The teachers note poor attendance in the months leading up to Christmas, traditionally the peak selling season for Divisoria.

“Sometimes, parents would rather that their kids sell plastic bags in Divisoria, at P5 for 100 pieces, than go to the center. Or they are made to sell vegetables, or take care of their siblings,” said Espineli.

To persuade the students to return, the tutors have to visit their homes and talk to the parents.

Despite the challenges, the young teachers are buoyed by the EKK’s successes.

Vanessa Vega, who was in the first batch of students at the center, graduated First Honorable Mention in 2004, after lagging behind in her class for a long time with 70-percent grades.

Roughly 90 percent of EKK “graduates” have also proceeded to high school, helping to cut the high elementary-to-high-school dropout rate among Baseco students.

The extracurricular activities at the EKK have helped to pull up Rodel Candano’s average by a point -- from 79 percent to 80 percent -- in the last school year.

“Here we get to draw, we sing and dance and go on field trips. We went to the Planetarium where I saw stars and Parks and Wildlife where we got to play in the open ground,” said Candano.


Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20080803-152300/Teaching-kids-to-dream-beyond-Baseco

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Manila Inter-Agency Committee to meet over housing woes

** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

Manila Inter-Agency Committee to meet over housing woes

7 August 2008. Following the urban poor meeting with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee (MMIAC) is set to meet this afternoon (August 7) to discuss housing policies and programs for thousands of urban poor families.

Various government agencies are expected to attend the meeting at the Conference Room of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to decide for the fate of the revised executive order formalizing the creation of MMIAC and its directives. It will also tackle the list of 2,000 families for relocation to Montalban (Rodriguez, Rizal), inventory of other relocation sites and the biometrics registration of families in priority areas for relocation.

With the help of Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao and Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, some leaders belonging to the Task Force Anti-Eviction met President Arroyo last August 1 in Malacañang to discuss the looming housing problems.

At the consultation meeting, President Arroyo instructed different agencies to realize her commitment to give shelter for thousands of urban poor families affected by evictions and demolitions.

The president directed the MMDA to prioritize the biometric system of profiling the urban poor families. MMDA will enjoin the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) in doing the biometric system of the following priority areas: Santolan (creek) and Sta. Lucia, Pasig City; Sito Masagana (Military Shrine), Taguig City; Balintawak (market), Tatalon and Cubao, Quezon City; R-10, Tondo, Manila; R-10 / Fishport, Navotas; and Quezon Bridge, Quiapo.

The affected families of these areas have been demolished but without provision of relocation, according to the Task Force Anti-Eviction, an urban poor group formed by 3 housing rights NGOs namely Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise, Community Organizers Multiversity and Urban Poor Associates (UPA). “Their structures have been demolished by MMDA or other government agencies and hence, these are families with pressing need of relocation.”

The group requested the president to transfer the affected families to Montalban. The subject property being requested is owned by the Home Guarantee Corporation (HGC). There are 5,345 homelots generated at the aforementioned property that have been idle for a long time. The group agreed with the president that the priorities for relocation are those families affected by the government infrastructure projects and those at the danger zones.

In a meeting hosted by the President last January 31, the government assured the urban poor group that demolitions would no longer be allowed unless there is a relocation site ready for affected families. President Arroyo instructed government agencies that there should be a social preparation period of 45 days for those who will be relocated. She agreed that in-city or near-city relocation sites should be considered a better option than distant relocation. Montalban, for example, which has been suggested by the poor as a relocation site, is willing to accept up to 100,000 urban poor families. An additional P4 billion pesos for socialized housing was also announced.

However, most of what have been promised did not materialize, according to Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA. “Pagkatapos ng unang pulong sa presidente, kami’y nakipag-ugnayan sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan upang maipatupad ang mga napagkasunduan. Masakit sabihin, sa aming pagtatasa halos lahat ng mga napagkasunduan ay hindi naganap.” Añana was recently appointed by the president as the permanent representative of urban poor sector in the MMIAC.

According to the eviction monitor done by UPA, for the past 6 months some 2,097 families have lost their homes due to demolitions. Out of the 2,097 families, only 741 families were relocated. Of the 15 cases recorded, 11 cases were done by MMDA. -30-

MMDA dismantles houses, shops in Quezon City

08/05/2008 | 06:50 PM




QTV: Violence mars MMDA clearing operations in Manila
08/06/2008 | 12:40 PM




MMDA clears Manila streets of vendors
08/06/2008 | 03:13 PM




MMDA, vendors clash in sidewalk-clearing operation
08/06/2008 | 06:40 PM




MMDA clearing operations in Manila marred by violence
08/07/2008 | 07:47 AM


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS on REPUBLIC ACT 7279

After 15 years the Urban Development and Housing Act (RA 7279) has failed to provide for “a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program, establish the mechanism for its implementation, and for other purposes.” (From R.A. 7279 Title)

Thousands of families are literally evicted and left in the streets without relocation. Of the 2,781 families evicted this year in Metro Manila, excluding railroad evictions, only 9% received relocation. Relocation sites are usually far distant from places of work, and are poorly prepared. The Proclamation program of the President, while it set aside land for close to 200,000 families has failed to develop the sites and give titles to the families. There are also very few new proclamations. On the 10th anniversary of the laws enactment a panel of government, Church and civil society experts made an evaluation of the law’s implementation over the 10 years. They titled their report “A Good Law, But Terrible Implementation.” That is still an apt description. In an effort to improve implementation the following amendments are suggested.


1. PROVISION WHICH CATEGORICALLY PROVIDES FOR STRICT COMPLIANCE OF REQUIREMENTS SET IN SECTION 28, R.A. 7279 AND RELOCATION IN ALL CASES OF EVICTION.

The most debated, if not abused provision is Section 28, R. A. 7279 wherein it provides instances when eviction and demolition may be allowed:

a. when persons or entities occupy danger zones such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, river banks, shorelines, waterways and other public places such as sidewalks, roads, parks and playgrounds;

b. when government projects with available funding are about to be implemented; and

c. when there is a court order for eviction or demolition.

This does not mean that evictions can be carried out immediately on the grounds that the urban poor are nuisances per se. The words should be qualified with the mandatory requirements provided in the same section, paragraph 2:

“In the execution of eviction or demolition orders involving under privileged and homeless citizens, the following shall be mandatory:

a. Notice upon affected persons and entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction;

b. Adequate consultations on the matter of resettlement;

c. Presence of local government officials or their representative during the eviction;

d. Proper identification of the persons taking part in the demolition;

e. Conduct of demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays unless the affected consent otherwise;

f. No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for permanent structures and concrete materials; and

g. Adequate relocation with basic services and access to employment sufficient to meet the basic needs of the families. If relocation is not possible within forty-five (45) days upon the serving of the final judgment by the court, the local government unit concerned is instructed to compensate the affected families an amount equivalent to the current minimum wage multiplied by sixty (60) days.”

Thus, evictions done prior to compliance with these requirements are illegal, especially if there is no existing relocation site for the affected urban poor families.

Section 29 thereof mandates the relocation of persons living in the so-called danger areas for two (2) years from the effectivity of the law. It provides that within the two (2) years from the effectivity of this Act, the local government units, in coordination with the National Housing Authority, shall implement the relocation and resettlement of persons living in danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and in other public places such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and playgrounds. The local government units, in coordination with the National Housing Authority, shall provide relocation sites with basic services and facilities and access to employment and livelihood opportunities sufficient to meet the basic needs of the affected families”.

We believe the mandate to relocate the families in the three groups continues beyond two years since the national government and local government units have almost all failed to do the tasks assigned them in Art. IV, that is, inventories of lands and improvements thereon within their respective localities. They were also directed to identify sites for social housing and to further acquire land for social housing.

The Constitution states: “Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.” (Art. XIII, Section 10). There is no mention of cut-off dates.

The Philippines has signed international treaties and covenants that require all evicted families should be relocated. For example: “The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR), General Comment No. 7 (UNCESCR Document E/1998/22), Item No. 17 provides, “Evictions should not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available”.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Add a provision categorically providing that any demolition or eviction cannot be carried out if there is no already-existing concrete and adequate relocation site for the affected families.



2. STATES CATEGORICALLY THERE ARE NO SO CALLED “CUT-OFF DATES”; ALL EVICTED FAMILIES MUST BE INCLUDED IN RELOCATION PROGRAMS.

It is discriminatory to set cut-off dates for the application of R.A. 7279 to exclude those who came in after 1992 considering the growing increase of the urban poor population in urban areas. Moreover, lack of determination and registration of beneficiaries cannot be faulted to the urban poor. Secondly, it is discriminatory to say families who came after a census was made, provided it was not a very recent one, are not entitled to relocation.

As was said above, the law mandates for the registration of beneficiaries within one year from the effectivity of UDHA. Moreover, LGU’s are directed to identify and thereafter make inventories of available sites for socialized housing (Art. 29).

However, this had not been done and complied with. Failing to make the registration of beneficiaries or provide land for socialized housing should never be faulted to the urban poor.

Thus, survey or census to determine qualified beneficiaries should anew be conducted. Whenever census or survey is made, actual relocation should be effected within the year. Otherwise, a new survey or census is to be conducted to determine all qualified beneficiaries within the affected area.

So as not to defeat the purpose of the law, what should be followed is the minimum qualifications set out by UDHA under Section 16 for the beneficiary which are:

a. Must be a Filipino citizen;
b. Must be an underprivileged and homeless citizen;
c. Must not own any real property whether in the urban or rural areas; and
d. Must not be a professional squatter or a member of squatting syndicate.

Thus, as long as they complied with these qualifications, as a matter of right, they should be entitled to the benefits set out by law particularly to relocation. Otherwise, to set cut-off of dates, would be a violation against the equal protection clause.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Add a provision categorically eliminating the cut-off period to be eligible as beneficiary under R.A. 7279.


3. SCOPE OF CONSULTATION. THE CONSULTATION PROCESS GIVES BENEFICIARIES THE RIGHT TO DIALOG WITH GOVERNMENT OVER THE TERMS OF RELOCATION AND TO CHOOSE THEIR RELOCATION SITE IF ALTERNATIVES ARE AVAILABLE.


Prior consultation with the affected families as required by R.A. 7279 plays an important role but is almost totally disregarded by the government agencies. Consultation with the affected families before demolitions and evictions are made out to forestall economic dislocation, chaos, confusion and violence and to ensure that their relocation sites are provided with basic services.

As defined in Section 3(d), consultation refers to “the constitutionally mandated process whereby the public on their own or through people’s organizations, is provided an opportunity to be heard and to participate in the decision-making process on matters involving the protection and promotion of its legitimate collective interests, which shall include appropriate documentation and feedback mechanisms”.

The affected families should be heard. So as not to put at naught this constitutional mandate, the people should be given the opportunity to decide on the location of the relocation sites, to make an offer or counter-offer, and to have the same be heeded when reasonable and allowable.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Provide categorical provision defining the scope of the required consultation giving right to the affected families to look at the proposed site, propose others and choose the preferred site, among others.


4. DEFINING THE PENALTIES FOR ANY GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY THAT VIOLATES ANY PROVISION OF R.A. 7279, ESPECIALLY CARRYING OUT EVICTIONS/DEMOLITIONS IN THE ABSENCE OF ACTUAL RELOCATION SITES.

R.A. 7279, although it sets out penalties for professional squatters and a general penalty for anyone who violates provisions of the Act, it lacks a specific provision defining specific penalties for the government officials or agency/ies violating the procedures and requirements before carrying out evictions or demolitions. Carrying out evictions and demolitions in the absence of actual relocation sites for the affected families should be criminalized and the penalty thereon should be defined. In a way, this gives teeth to this Act.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Provide specific provision making demolitions or evictions without actual relocation sites and non-compliance with the requirements set out under Section 28 (par.2) as a criminal act and providing penalties thereon at least equal to the penalties assigned to professional squatters.




5. MAKING IN-CITY OR NEAR-CITY RELOCATION MANDATORY.

One of the considerations in providing relocation sites is the livelihood component. Relocation sites should be near employment opportunities. Section 22 provides that, “To the extent feasible, socialized housing and resettlement projects shall be located near areas where employment opportunities are accessible. The government agencies dealing with the development of livelihood programs and grant of livelihood loans shall give priority to the beneficiaries of the Program”.

It is undeniable that relocatees have their source of livelihood in the area where they come from. There are far better chances of finding employment in cities than in distant areas. This is where the importance of near-city or in-city relocation comes in. Distant relocation causes the wage earners either to lose their jobs, since commuting is too expensive, or to live separate from their families. Further in distant relocation sites there are no part-time jobs for mothers and older children as there were in the city. Families relocated to distant sites suffer a decline in income since they now support two households—the wage earner(s) in the city and the mother and children in the relocation site. Also there is the lack of part time work for other family members. In many instances income drops by 25%. This results in poorer diets, health care and school expenses.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Provide specific provision making in-city or near-city relocation as mandatory and defining what constitutes in-city or near-city relocation.


6. Land Proclamations. The president has the right to proclaim land for social housing through Executive Orders. It is the easiest way of converting government land to social housing purpose. In the years 2001-2004 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued over 90 proclamations benefiting close to 200,000 families. It was seen as a good program for many reasons: (1) it benefited all residents in the proclaimed area including the poorest; (2) it didn’t cost the poor any money; (3) the proclamations, whatever their limitations, did stop nearly all evictions on proclaimed land; (4) the program was to lead to upgrading and actual subdivision and titling, in which process affordability would be a key factor since the exact work to be done or in any area would be democratically decided up on between government and people on LIAC or PIAC (Local Interagency Committee or Project Interagency Committee); (5) it was a program that could be replicated fairly easily.

However there have been two sets of problems: (1) the upgrading and titling work has not been done in nearly all proclaimed areas; (2) some proclamations have been amended or changed radically, leading people to ask, “What is the value of the proclamations (Baseco, Parola)?” The issuance of proclamations has practically stopped.

We therefore propose:

1. That the proclamation program be continued. President Macapagal-Arroyo at her 2001 State of the Nation Address said she would proclaim land for 150,000 families a year.

2. That time limit of one year be given for the upgrading and titling processes to get underway and one billion pesos be set aside annually for upgrading and titling proclaimed lands.

3. It should be stated land proclamations cannot be changed or annulled except in a legal process which allows the beneficiaries to present their arguments against change or annulment.

The legal value of the proclamations should be spelled out in the law.


7. R.A. 7279 SHOULD ALSO BE MADE APPLICABLE IN DEMOLITIONS OR EVICTIONS INVOLVING PRIVATE PROPERTY.

In cases where urban poor families occupied idle land and later on a private person claims to own the property, still, even if it was found out that indeed the property is private, the procedural guarantees laid down under R.A.7279 should be followed. Demolitions and/or evictions should not be carried out without existing adequate relocation site provided for the affected families.

The Constitution does not qualify the mandate to the government to continuously provide the basic right to shelter to the urban poor whether they are occupying a private or government land.


PROPOSED AMENDMENT: Provide specific provision making the requisites set out in R.A. 7279 mandatorily applicable before demolition or eviction is carried out on private as well as public land.

Friday, August 01, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY: Human Rights and Access to Justice for the Poor

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

Human Rights and Access to Justice for the Poor

It is our distinct honor to invite you to attend a special seminar entitled, “Amending UDHA: Human Rights and Access to Justice for the Poor.” Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, Supreme Court Spokesman Jose Midas Marquez and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo will be the main speakers.

The seminar will be held August 4, 2008 (Monday) at the Audio Visual Room, Social Development Complex of the Ateneo de Manila University. It will begin at 9:00AM and end at 1:00PM. A modest lunch will follow.

The seminar brings together initiatives that promise improvement in the manner in which urban poor people are treated, especially in matters of evictions and relocation. Senator Aquino as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government has already begun hearings on amending UDHA.

Chairperson de Lima took up the issues of evictions and relocation with a special emphasis on the human rights of the people involved in such activities contained in the country’s Constitution and laws and the International Covenants the country has signed.

The seminar is also our effort to follow through the highly successful "Forum on Increasing Access to Justice: Bridging Gaps and Removing Roadblocks" which the Supreme Court Chief Justice has initiated.

Naga City has been awarded the 2007 Housing Rights Protector Award for its Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Programme, an initiative providing security of tenure and improved living conditions for thousands of its residents.

After the speakers make their opening statements, urban poor people will have a chance to tell stories of how they have suffered in recent evictions, for example, the absence of consultation, legal notice and relocation. Government agencies will have time to make their comments on what has been said by the speakers and the poor. Then there will be an open forum.

At the end, the speakers will share their final thoughts on the subjects discussed. There will be a large poster-size statement of purpose that the participants will be asked to sign.

Date: August 4, 2008 (Monday) / 9:00AM - 1:00PM

Venue: Audio Visual Room, Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City