Friday, September 26, 2008

A changing of the guard?

Commentary : A changing of the guard?

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: September 26, 2008

In a small rented room in the Baseco Compound in Manila’s Tondo district that serves as the office of the people’s organization Kabalikat, some 20 leaders, mostly women, waited for the arrival of two young princes of Philippine politics, Senators Manuel Roxas II and Benigno Aquino III. Manila Mayor Fred Lim and former secretary of education Florencio Abad were also expected. The room is used for a tutoring class, so the people were squeezed into the children’s small chairs.

There is a countrywide consensus for a more democratic, egalitarian and participative government, but what would it look like in the concrete? People want a changing of the guard, an end to the “trapo” [traditional politico] system, but how would the new politicians act? People in that small room that morning saw some signs of what this new politics might be like.

Lim came first. He stayed on the street outside the room, gathered crowds of people, children especially, and gave them P20 bills until the bags of money he brought with him were empty. He talked to Roxas when the latter arrived, and then went away.

Roxas went around Baseco for an hour or so, an area of 56 hectares at the mouth of the Pasig River. It is home to about 10,000 families. One woman he met told him she paid P6 for a 20-liter container of water, which translates to about P300 for a cubic meter. Ordinary users of supply from Manila Water Co. pay only P10 a cubic meter. The poor pay more in every conceivable way.

Finally, the two senators and Abad came into the meeting room and spent the next two hours talking with the people. They listened as the people explained the problems they faced with light, water, drainage, incomes and schools, and how at present they feared they might be removed from Baseco, even though the land was proclaimed for them by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002. They believe powerful and well-connected businessmen want the strategic area for commercial purposes.

The government cites a 2004 soil analysis that predicts the soil in Baseco will liquefy if there is a strong earthquake nearby. The study concludes that no homes are safe and all the homes must be removed. This is because the reclamation done in Baseco by the government used garbage instead of good soil and rocks, the analysis states. Other engineers say it is still possible to build safely one-story or two-story houses, provided ordinary building precautions in such a hazardous area are taken.

A cloud of secrecy covers the government’s real plans. Understandably, the people fear they will be evicted and sent 50 or 80 kilometers away, far from their work and the children’s schools, and that they will be replaced by offices, harbor facilities or houses of the rich.

The people told the senators they believed the proclamation gave them ownership rights, and on that basis they, with the help of Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity, built 2,000 neat, one-story houses. Another 1,000 families built in a government sites and services program. The remaining families have built as the poor have always built: shacks of secondhand materials wherever there was space. The people believe these steps strengthened the ownership rights, and they feel they cannot be evicted arbitrarily.

They told the senators that they should be told what the plan is, and if there is no plan then government should put that in writing and continue instead to upgrade the area as the proclamation states. The senators promised to help them find out what they could about the government plan.

As the morning went on, there were signs of a changing of the guard, from the old-style politician, or trapo, to a newer, more democratic style.

Lim may not be the best example of the trapo, though he very often refuses to meet with groups of poor people. He does help in his own way. In a more democratic style the senators visited the poor, they listened patiently and they offered to do what the people wanted them to do.

The senators took part in a dialogue with the people that was informal, friendly, one in which each side treated the other with respect. Perhaps that’s the essence of new governance: respect, willingness to enter into dialogue to form solutions, and cooperative action. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, however. Everyone hopes the senators will maintain their opening to the poor.

There were signs within three days after the meeting that the senators had begun to do what they promised.

The experience of Mayor Jesse Robredo in Naga City and Mayor Tomas OsmeƱa in Cebu City shows that the urban poor will vote in overwhelming numbers for the candidates who have helped them between elections. The poor are a more reliable constituency for a politician than the business and special interest groups they usually serve.

It would be wonderful if politicians took the poor seriously and won their votes, not by handouts, but by performance, by solving the very serious problems the poor face.

Is there hope of a changing of the guard?

Dennis Murphy works with Urban Poor Associates. His email address is

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

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mindanao right on our doorstep

Commentary : Mindanao right on our doorstep

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: September 06, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—Mindanao, with its Muslim-Christian troubles, is far away and beyond the experience of most of us. There is, however, a Muslim-Christian struggle on our doorstep. And this we should be able to understand and recommend solutions to.

Some 376 Muslim families who are clustered tightly around their mosque have been resisting government efforts to evict them and their mosque from the reclaimed land in Manila Bay near Baclaran Church. The government wants them and the mosque out; the people want to stay alongside their mosque.

Evictions are a common problem between government and urban poor people these days, but this particular eviction is complicated by Muslim belief. The president of the people’s organization, Abdelmanan Tanandato, says Islamic law forbids the destruction of houses of worship, including Christian churches. The Muslims on the reclaimed land believe they cannot allow the destruction of their mosque. They must defend it. Their imams have told them they can’t leave the mosque. The government believes it must clear the land, which is very valuable and destined for commerce, luxury housing and casino use.

Years ago in Lahore, Pakistan, I saw proof of what Abdelmanan told me. I visited a huge urban poor area that had been demolished by the government. It was literally leveled; not a stone left upon a stone. One small building, however, a Catholic chapel, stood untouched in the middle of the field.

Abdelmanan says that when the Marawi uprising took place on Oct. 21, 1972, a month after the declaration of martial law, angry Muslims were determined to destroy the properties of Christians, but they didn’t touch the churches in Marawi, Catholic or Protestant.

The Muslims now living on the reclaimed land left Lanao del Sur when the Muslim-Christian war broke out in 1972. Some first went to Iligan which, shortly thereafter, had its own troubles, and so in the end many of them wound up in Manila. They have been on the reclaimed land since 1992; the mosque was built in 1994. They are employed like other urban poor people, many are vendors. “If you have only P500 as capital, you can buy and sell something there in Baclaran,” Abdelmanan says, “even hairclips.”

There was a violent demolition on the reclaimed land in 1999. Houses were destroyed and people were hurt. As a result the families moved closer to the mosque. In June this year, the demolition team came again, but hundreds of Muslim men faced them, spread out across the barren land prepared to fight with wooden clubs to protect their homes and mosque. The demolition team left. The government has offered large amounts of money, but the Muslims did not move.

At that time both Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Bishop Broderick Pabillo spoke to the government on behalf of the people, and the tense situation has calmed down somewhat. There is no change in basic positions, however.

What is the solution in Baclaran? Before investigating, people on both sides should be aware that they look at Moro-Christian problems through a lens of centuries-old bias and suspicion, which make any peaceful solution difficult to arrive at. In addition, the Muslims in Baclaran suffer from society’s general prejudice toward urban poor people.

If the government proceeds with the demolition and eviction, the people will resist—violently most likely. Scores will be injured. Some may be killed. The government will then eventually have to destroy the mosque, a sight that has a good chance of appearing in every newspaper in the world. Will the violence end there? Will there be revenge attacks on Christian churches, for example? The Muslim people believe it is God’s will that they defend the mosque. People must obey government’s laws, St. Paul tells us in Romans, but his precept presumes the laws do not contradict the laws of God as we know them.

If the government allows the mosque to stay, it will remain amid the office buildings, luxury housing and casino facilities that will be built. Why not? The Catholic Church has a church on the reclaimed land. The two religious houses can remind the rich and powerful, including the gamblers, that there is more to life than money and pleasure. They will stand guard reminding the rich to enjoy while they can, for all things are fleeting.

Does this case shed any light on the problems of Mindanao? Probably not much if it does at all, though it does highlight the possibility that alternative ways of thinking can provide good solutions. Insanity can be defined, it is said, by repeating the same actions year after year and expecting different results. We have evicted tens of thousands of poor families. The National Housing Authority says there have been 130,000 poor families evicted from Metro Manila since 1984. The question can be asked, is the city any better off as a result?

The same solutions have been tried for years and years in Mindanao with the same unsatisfactory results. Are there alternate actions, alternate solutions?

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His email address is

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

Friday, September 05, 2008

Poorest city in RP capital is Manila

09/04/2008 | 07:59 PM

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

MMDA dismantles houses along C-5

09/02/2008 | 06:42 PM

Informal settlers seek intervention of CHR (Read on at

Speech delivered by Commision on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Atty. Leila M. de Lima

On the Occasion of the Launch of the Manifesto on Illegal Demolitions and Forced Evictions

Quezon City, 2 September 2008

delivered by

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

The Fourth Commission has just marked the first 100 days in office and we reported to the media many of the accomplishments achieved in the past three and a half months. One of the most important campaigns of the Commission on human rights protection is the drive to put an end to illegal demolitions and forced evictions.

Today is an especially important landmark for the Fourth Commission. The Manifesto presented here today represents the first giant step forward for the Commission on the cause of putting an end to illegal demolitions and forced evictions. The passage of the UDHA several years ago was billed as a breakthrough for informal settlers. As we've seen over the years, however, the deficiencies of the UDHA have become apparent. Hindi na tugunan ng UDHA ang 'di makatarungan at maka-taong demolisyon at ebiksyon. Hindi lubusang matupad ng mga lokal na pamahalaan ang mga probisyon ng Saligang Batas at ng UDHA. This Manifesto represents the strongest statement from those affected most by MMDA and local government demolition operations. We at the Commission are thrilled that our contribution to and support for the efforts of the urban poor groups has culminated in this presentation of the Manifesto. We have noted, with great pride, that many of the recommendations of the Commission on the amendment of the UDHA have been incorporated into the Manifesto.

The Commission lauds the efforts of the Urban Poor Associates and its affiliated organizations. The strength of this campaign is not merely in the multitude that it seeks to protect and represent but in its effectiveness of organization. The Manifesto is a unifying document that brings together the thousands who are adversely affected by illegal demolitions. Hereafter, it is vital that the presentation of this Manifesto to the media will generate even more support from more urban poor organizations and bring as many stake-holders together and speak with one voice through one Manifesto.

The task is, by far, not over. From the hundreds here this morning, we have to gather thousands and thousands more. Remember that the strength is not just in the numbers. It must be in organized numbers.

There are many critical contributions that must follow for this campaign to succeed. Since the local government is a critical part in the process of demolitions and evictions, their positive action is key to our campaign. It is not enough that we invite representatives of the local government to attend our forums on illegal demolitions. Hindi sapat na sabihin nila na alam nila ang mga hinanakit ng mga impormal na nananahanan. Hindi rin sapat na alam nila na may problema sa implementasyon ng UDHA. Hindi sapat na sasabihin ng MMDA na sumusunod lang sila sa isang resolusyon ng Metro Manila Council. Sa panig naman ng mga LGUs, PCUP at NHA, hindi sapat na panay ang bintang nila sa MMDA. Nangangailangan na ng aksyon sa pamamagitan ng mga local legislation at ordinansya na ipinagbabawal ng di-makatarungang demolisyon. Having said this, it is extremely important now to foster cooperation between organized urban poor groups and the various mayors. Before the passage of any amended law on the UDHA, the local government units must be on-board and supportive of alternatives to forced evictions and proactively preventing illegal demolitions.

In addition, the contribution of the media in disseminating our cause is key. Today's event is intended to generate media interest. However, the campaign is far from over and media coverage must be sustained over the course of our struggle to bring about just and humane solutions to the urban housing problem. All the more, the efforts of the UPA and other groups have to be coordinated and organized, in order to sustain a public relations campaign. As with other human rights issues that occupy the front pages of the news, this campaign must gather enough momentum to find its way onto the newspapers and evening news. It must not stop until both the local and national government fulfill the promises of the UDHA and Constitution.

At the moment, we are witnessing some progress in the fight against unjust and inhumane evictions. In finding other allies in government, the efforts of both the Commission and the urban poor groups have been recognized by the Supreme Court no less. This is a very important development especially since there has hardly been any declared support from the Executive Branch and LGUs, and Legislative support, spearheaded by Senator Aquino will take time before an Amended UDHA can be passed. The Chief Justice, however, is already exploring the possibility of amending the Writ of Amparo to extend to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and thus the same writ intended to protect victims of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances may soon protect victims of illegal demolitions and forced evictions as well.

The gains are still small, but they are promising. What we need now is not so much a show of anger or dissidence or violence, but sobriety. We need to be very deliberate in our efforts to gain the cooperation of key sectors of government and civil society. We need to be calculating in our managing of our resources and networks in sustaining media coverage. We need to contribute, with earnest effort, to find alternatives to forced evictions in order to suggest solutions to the government authorities, instead of expecting them to devise their own solutions. In all, our campaign must not be driven by anger, but by soberness. We will attain the justice for all informal settlers not by indignation, but with clarity of thought.

Nang mabasa ko ang Manifesto,napansin ko na may pagkakatulad ito sa aming mungkahi para sa aming kampanya laban sa ilegal na demolisyon. Sa panawagan ninyo para sa moratorium sa demolisyon at sapilitang ebiksyon, imumungkahi ko sa Commission En Banc na magpalabas ng resolusyon ukol dito.

Ipagdasal natin na makakamit natin ang mga hangarin ng ating Manifesto at ang ating layunin ng ating pakikibaka. Ipagdasal din natin na mananatiling matatag ang loob ng mga lahat ng nagbubuhos ng pawis at dugo para sumulong ang kampanya natin na makamtam ang tunay na justisya para sa mga maralitang komunidad. Nawa'y maging tunay na makatao at makatarungan ang ating lipunan.

Maraming salamat po.


Urban Poor Stages Rally to Support CHR De Lima and Call for Moratorium on Evictions

02 September 2008

Urban Poor Stages Rally to Support CHR De Lima and Call for Moratorium on Evictions

Some 500 urban poor people staged a demonstration rally this morning from the National Housing Authority in Quezon Circle to the Commission on Human Rights compound in Diliman to show their support for its current Chairperson Leila de Lima’s fight against human rights violations by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in its clearing operations of sidewalk vendors and informal settlers and to jointly call for a moratorium on evictions.

The group, the Task Force Anti-Eviction, an alliance of urban poor in Metro Manila, depicted MMDA’s Chairman Bayani “BF” Fernando as “Satan”, a person masked with BF face complete with “devil’s horn and tail” in a fight with the “Angel” Saint Michael, represented by a woman with the face of CHR Chairwoman Leila de Lima. The group spokesperson, Presilda Juanich of Navotas, praised De Lima and assailed Chairman Fernando. “Chairwoman Leila de Lima is an angel sent from heaven for us, the urban poor, in her courageous stand against human rights violations, while BF, the undisputed “berdugo ng maralita” is Satan personified”, she said.

The Commission on Human Rights is currently investigating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority in its conduct in evicting poor families from their dwellings due to complains from various urban poor organizations in Metro Manila. The Task Force Anti-Eviction stated that they documented and submitted to the CHR eight cases of violent demolitions conducted by the MMDA, in R-10 Navotas, Manila Estero, Pasay Estero, Quirino Bridge in South Super-Highway, Quaipo, Balintawak Market, Tatalon Quezon City, and Pasig City that affected more than 2,000 families. Majority of the evicted families are still living literally on the streets as no relocation was provided.

The government is set to demolish more than 300,000 families in Metro Manila because of its infrastructure projects and the Metro Gwapo project of the MMDA. From this, more than 70,000 families are living along the esteros whose majority is in Quezon City, Manila and Pasay City set to be cleared by the MMDA without the capacity to provide relocation.

Aside from the call for a moratorium to demolition, the Task Force Anti-Eviction in a Manifesto, presented to Chairwoman Leila de Lima a 10 point agenda that ask for the strict compliance of the procedures in eviction as stated by law, put a stop on treating informal settlers as “nuisance”, and for the Commission to require government officials to undergo seminars on human rights, among others. The group is also calling for the amendment of the Urban Development and Housing Act to strengthen the law against “callous” officials like Bayani Fernando.

Task Force Anti-Eviction
c/o COPE-COM-UPA 27 Ignacio Diaz St. Cubao, Quezon City
Contact: Soti Sabarre 09103916128 / 723-74-20

Monday, September 01, 2008


KAMING mga MARALITANG KOMUNIDAD SA LUNGSOD, ay saksi at dumanas ng di-makatao at mapanghamak na gawi ng MMDA, iba pang ahensiya ng pamahalaan at ibang lokal na pamahalaan sa tuwing may demolisyon at ebiksyon na isinasagawa na tahasang salungat sa itinakda ng ating Saligang Batas, batas na sinang-ayunan partikular ang UDHA at mga pandaigdigang kasunduan kung saan ang Pilipinas ay lumagda. Nagtutulak ito sa amin – mga kababaihan, kabataan at nakatatanda – sa kalsada lantad sa lahat ng porma ng pang-aabuso, inagawan ng aming mga pag-aari at, pinakamasama, hinubaran ng dignidad bilang tao.

Sa pagsasagawa ng mga kasamaang ito, pinoprotektahan nila ang kanilang mga sarili ng kadahilanan na ang kanilang isinasakatuparan ay para sa kapakanan at kaunlaran tungo sa ikabubuti ng nakararami. Samantalang, kaming mga maralitang komunidad sa lungsod ay tao rin na ginagarantiyahan ng mga batayang karapatan – sa sapat na proseso, karapatan sa pagmamay-ari, karapatan na hindi makaranas ng anumang anyo ng pang-aabuso at karapatan na magkaroon ng disenteng pabahay. Ang kabutihan para sa nakararami ay dapat isinasama ang karapatang pantao ng bawat isa. Hindi tayo makakapagbuo ng isang disenteng lipunan sa paglabag ng karapatan ng mga mahihina.

Hindi kami dapat ipinalalagay na panggulo o problema, sa halip ay bahagi ng kaunlaran ng bansa. Kung anumang kabutihan mayroon na hinahangad ang pamahalaan, hindi ito dapat lumalabag sa batas o yumuyurak sa mga karapatang pantao.

Upang alisin ang lahat ng mga nakagugulong bahagi sa pagpapatupad ng UDHA, ang mga maralitang komunidad sa lungsod ay isinusulong ang mga mungkahing pagbabago sa kongreso at senado hinggil dito upang anuman ang itinataguyod ng batas na ito ay maisakatuparan.

1. Dapat isama ng UDHA ang malinaw na pagbabago sa “title 12” ng “Civil Code” sa nuisance, sa pagsasaad na kung ang sasailalim ay mga tirahan ng mga di pormal na nananahan, ang seksyon 27 at 28 ng UDHA at ang IRR ang dapat na gamitin sa halip na ang probisyon sa “Civil Code.”

2. Ang hangganang panahon na 1992 ay dapat na alisin. Ang mga lokal na pamahalaan ay hindi sumunod sa batas na paglalaan ng lupa para sa pabahay ng mga maralita at hindi nagawang ilikas ang mga di pormal na nananahan sa lungsod sa loob ng dalawang taon tulad ng iniuutos ng UDHA. Kinakailangan ang bagong paraan ng pagtatakda ng hangganang panahon sa sa bawat demolisyon. Iminumungkahi na magsagawa ng census sa lugar na may nakatakdang demolisyon kung mayroon nang nakahandang relokasyon. Ang lahat ng nasa census, kasama ang mga umuupa at nakikitira, ay benepisyaryo.

3. Dapat na tahasang ilahad ng UDHA na ang di pagsasagawa ng lokal na pamahalaan sa census ay inilalagay na ang sinuman na magkakaroon ng ebiksyon at demolisyon sa ilalim ng UDHA ay awtomatikong dapat na makatanggap ng mga benepisyo ng relokasyon. Dagdag pa, ang hindi pagsasagawa niyan sa bahagi ng lokal na pamahalaan ay nagpipigil sa pagpapatupad ng biglaang ebiksyon sa ilalim ng IRR.

4. Ang UDHA ay dapat na banggitin ang mga opisyal at kinatawan ng pamahalaan na dapat na naroroon sa lahat ng panahon sa buong durasyon ng aktwal na ebiksyon o demolisyon. Dagdag pa, dapat na banggitin na ang lokal na pamahalaan ang siyang pinunong ahensiya na mangunguna at magsasagawa ng demolsiyon.

5. Dapat na nakasaad sa UDHA na maglaan ng pera sa “summary adjudicatory court procedures” (espesyal na proseso ng korte) na maaaring mag-utos na may layon na masagot ang mga di pormal na nanahaan laban sa pang-aabuso ng mga lokal na alkalde at iba pang mga opisyal ng pamahalaan na sangkot sa isinagawang iligal na demolisyon.

6. Mahigpit na ipatupad ang Seksyon 28 ng UDHA bago ang pagpapatupad ng demolisyon. Ang mga opisyal ng pamahalaan ay dapat na parusahan kung ang lahat ng hinihingi sa ilalim ng Seksyon 28 ng UDHA ay hindi istriktong ipinatutupad.

7. Mayroon dapat mga konsultasyon sa komunidad sa layunin ng paghahanda sa mga di pormal na nananahan para sa ebiksyon at demolisyon. Dapat na bigyang ng pagkakataon na magmungkahi ang mga apektadong pamilya ng mga alternatibong relokasyon at dapat ding kilalanin ang mga alternatibong plano ng mga tao.

8. Dapat magsagawa ng mga pagpapaliwanag sa batas upang masiguro na ang mga naninirahan sa komunidad na nakalaan sa demolisyon ay alam ang kanilang mga karapatan at kaparaanan partikular sa ilalim ng UDHA. Magtalaga ng ahensiya ng pamahalaan na magsasagawa nito.

9. Bago ang pagsasagawa ng ebiksyon ang mga kasapi ng grupo ng demolisyon ay dapat na dumaan sa isang seminar sa karapatang pantao o pagbabalik-aral para sa karapatang pantao.

10. Dapat magtukoy ng paraan para masiguro na may relokasyon ang mga pamilyang pinalikas dahilan s autos ng korte sa mga lupang pribado.