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Urban Poor Re-enact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter
19 December 2008. In celebration of their 22nd Panunuluyan, over 500 urban poor people marched this morning at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City repeating the question asked by Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: "Do you have a decent place where we can stay?"
Aside from the dramatization of Nativity story, there was also a Mass and the awarding of the “Urban Poor Person of the Year Award”, an annual prize given to the person who has done the most for the poor that year or in his or her lifetime.
The prize this year was given to Chairperson Leila de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The award cites Atty. de Lima for the “compassion, legal skill and courage” she has shown in defense of the urban poor people’s housing rights.
Led by children in angel costumes, urban poor people together with housing rights advocates marched from the Oblation to Palma Hall of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.
Participants included old people, victims of demolitions, relocated railroad families, leaders of people’s organization, various non-government organizations, urban poor friends and sympathizers from all over Metro Manila.
On the steps of Palma hall, marchers were greeted by clouds of angels announcing the good news and prophetic trumpets.
The event is sponsored by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Urban Poor Alliance (UP-All) and Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA).
“Panunuluyan exemplifies that what happened to Jesus is happening again to the urban poor now. The sufferings of Jesus are the sufferings of the urban poor today. Jesus had no place to live as a baby and at the end he was oppressed and killed by the powerful,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA.
“Basically the urban poor issue is the same as that of the farmers pushing for agrarian reform. Both are concern with land. The farmers need land to till while the urban poor need land to live on,” Añana explained.
There have been successes in the urban poor in 2008. According to UPA, there were fewer evictions during the last months of the year. UPA noted the efforts of the CHR particularly its Resolution No. A2008-052 issued last November 6 recommending the imposition of a moratorium on evictions and demolitions of homes of underprivileged and homeless citizens.
The following are some other victories the urban poor wish to celebrate this Christmas: Plans to evict everyone in Baseco, Port Area have been junked; Advances were made in respect to people’s housing rights and amending the Urban Development and Housing Act; the release of P300 million for relocation in Montalban of evicted families and the commitment of a large sum for similar work; preparation of Tanza, Navotas as a relocation site for the thousands of families who will be moved from the R-10 roadway; in-city or near-city relocation became the norm for evicted families rather than distant relocation to sites 50 kilometers and more away, according to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who also said relocation sites will be fully prepared before people are transferred; progress on the local housing boards in Quezon City and elsewhere have been made; there are no large scale evictions. Plans to evict the people of Del Pan and in other sites along the Pasig River and many esteros were cancelled. -30-