Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Santa in Balintawak

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : Santa in Balintawak

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 29, 2009

IF you would like to know how it feels to be a presidential candidate, a movie star or even a pope, just dress up as Santa Claus and go to a poor area of Metro Manila. You will need bodyguards to protect you, not from pickpockets and addicts, but from the crowds of children who will drown you in their affection and excitement if you are not careful.

I was Santa Claus this year to hundreds of young children of the scavengers and market workers who live against the wall of the GenTex Compound in Balintawak. When we were near the place, I put on my red Santa jacket, white wig and whiskers and began to wave to people along the way. Everyone, even the tough guys stripped to the waist who looked as if they were ready at any time for a knife-fight and the tired-looking women, smiled back and waved. If I waved back and forth quickly, the people waved quickly, and I felt like Noynoy Aquino or Manny Pacquiao. When I waved slowly the crowds waved slowly and I felt like Pope Benedict XVI. I knew how he must feel speeding through crowds in his pope mobile. Everyone recognized Santa; everyone was glad to see him. It was an exhilarating feeling.

The sponsors had given me bags of candy to distribute to the children. Be careful doing that! Hundreds of children coming at you to get their candy is scary. Don’t try it unless the children are lined up safely in some sort of traffic control contraption designed by Bayani Fernando and watched over by their mothers. I told the children all about Santa, who he was and where he came from and what Santa wanted for them and their city when they grew up. There should be enough food for everyone, good schools, and good jobs for all, I told them. I sensed the children wishing in their own way that I’d hurry up, so that the gift-giving and the meal could begin.

The children were strikingly beautiful and I thought I recognized some of them.

In 1998 a demolition team from Quezon City Hall came to evict the people living in this same place. The people asked them not to insist on the eviction because five of their children were sick of dengue and might die if they were forced to sleep in the open. One child had already died of the disease, the people said, and showed the team the body of the child which was still in one of the houses. The demolition team examined the dead child and still tore down the huts. In the morning the five children were dead. The parents went to the mayor who told the miserably poor people he would pay 20 percent of the burial expenses and no more.

We had young community organizers working with us in that place, who brought the coffins holding the children to City Hall. We arrived in a truck. The guards said we couldn’t unload the coffins, but they were afraid to come close to the dead bodies to stop us. We lay the dead by the main flag pole, and stayed there all day while a drum beat a sad rhythm. At first the mayor refused to come down, but when it looked as if we might stay and the media were gathering, he did come. Eventually he agreed to bury the children, relocate the families to Payatas and punish the demolition team.

We buried the dead children then in the saddest funeral I have ever attended. We were in the pauper’s plot of the cemetery where the bones of other dead stuck out of the soil. There was no priest or anyone to say a prayer, except the parents and neighbors.

The families of the dead children still live in that area. The children greeting me as Santa Claus may have been their brothers and sisters. The place is as dirty and crowded as ever and the people are still threatened with eviction.

God keeps giving us beautiful children and we keep forcing them to live in slums like Balintawak. “What have you done with my children?” God may well ask us one day. While we rebuild the city after “Ondoy,” can we concentrate on what is the most important need for us to worry about, namely, the future of the children of the poor?

It is Christmas, isn’t it? Good things can happen.

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

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Rehabilitating riverside settlements

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : Rehabilitating riverside settlements

By Anna Marie Karaos
Institute On Church And Social Issues
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 29, 2009

THREE months after storm “Ondoy” wreaked havoc on Metro Manila, a workable solution has yet to be found for rehabilitating the riverside settlements whose inhabitants suffered the brunt of the floods. The only solution government has put forward so far is to prohibit the informal settlers from returning to their riverside residences and to accelerate the construction of off-city resettlement sites.

But informal settlers have re-established themselves in the river easements in the absence of alternative places where Metro Manila’s workers can find affordable housing close to their sources of jobs and livelihood. Why does government insist on relying on a tired, ineffectual policy? How rational can it be to do same thing over and over again and expect a different result?

Urban planners claim that Manila lost a golden opportunity to re-plan and rebuild itself after the city was destroyed during World War II. The danger of missing on another opportunity to put things right looms again if public authorities fail to come up with new land policies and redevelopment approaches in response to the wake-up call delivered by Ondoy.

How we frame the problem determines what solutions we will find and where we will look for them. If the problem is simply understood as how and where to provide permanent housing for the 80,000 families living on the easements of Metro Manila’s rivers and waterways, resettlement would seem logical. However, urban poverty specialists contend that the real problem is how to preserve the fragile access poor people have to the advantages offered by cities, principally jobs and services essential for survival and upward mobility like health and education. They argue that living in cities is the best self-help strategy poor people have devised to overcome poverty and therefore government policies should be designed in ways that would protect poor people’s access to the benefits of living in cities.

If we accept that the old solution does not work, and by this I mean specifically large-scale off-city resettlement, shouldn’t we begin thinking differently about the “problem” of informal settlements?

As a start, I propose two new ways of thinking.

My first proposition is that finding a solution to rehabilitating the riverside communities cannot be divorced from a city-wide, even nation-wide, reform of urban land policy. We should begin to think not just land use or land management but land governance. Land governance is about linking decisions on the allocation and use of land to social needs and political processes. Land is a finite and social resource that should be harnessed to meet social needs and purposes. Determining what these needs and purposes are involves a political process. If we claim we are a democracy, this political process needs to be inclusive. Decision-making on land uses and what social needs to prioritize must be inclusive both in process and in outcome. When more than half a million Metro Manila families live in slums or informal settlements without legal tenure and 80,000 of them have to live on river easements, there is no land governance. Governance has clearly failed to be inclusive in its outcome.

How does government plan to use the land resources that it still controls? What land laws and policies would be needed to channel private and public land to socially desirable uses? Are these questions being asked at all? Cities are densifying and land prices keep rising. The distribution of urban space will increasingly become more inequitable. Is anyone paying any attention to this problematic scenario? What tenure systems should we encourage to make housing affordable to the greater number of urban residents? Should we insist on the disposition of lands through titling of individual plots? Or can other tenure systems be promoted such as community land trusts, land use rights, rental housing, community leases and usufruct arrangements on private and government-owned lands? These tenure systems have the advantage of providing legal access to land without a heavy financial burden on poor users. The key is giving poor people legal access to urban space, not providing land titles.

What about multi-story housing for urban poor residents? A poor country like Sri Lanka has made it work through land sharing and cross-subsidy schemes.

My second proposition is that poor people are the best resource for finding a solution to making riverside rehabilitation sustainable. In Surabaya and Bangkok, the development of riverside settlements was negotiated successfully by the informal dwellers with their city governments. Official policy shifted from resettlement to redevelopment through the organization of the riverside communities which made a commitment and a plan to upgrade their homes, clear space for riverside roads, install septic tanks and keep the rivers clean. The government took responsibility for building the roads, dredging the rivers and collecting the accumulated waste from the riverbeds. Many riverside communities in Metro Manila have capable organizations which can easily replicate this strategy with the support of their local governments.

We would do well to heed the call of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, who said in a recent pastoral letter: “It is not enough to simply order people off the waterways. A deep restructuring of our society is called for, starting in the present crisis with urban land policy.” The Manila archbishop presented concrete proposals, including urban land reform, a follow-through on presidential land proclamations, taxation of idle lands and a moratorium on eviction for as long as humane and adequate relocation cannot be provided. He reminded us, in the words of the psalmist, that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Monday, December 21, 2009

The lesser gifts

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : The lesser gifts

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: December 20, 2009

CAN we appreciate the great gift of Christmas if we fail to appreciate the hundreds of more ordinary gifts surrounding us every day?

Every child knows his or her name, for example, but there are many old men and women who no longer know their names or what they have done in life, or don’t remember whom they married, or their children’s faces. They would give the world to know themselves once again. An old Jesuit friend told me that when he wakes each morning, he thanks God for another day of life and another day of knowing who he is.

Water is something I, like most people, took for granted, until I went once with a reporter of Christian Aid to visit women along the R-10 road in Tondo. They had just managed to have metered water brought into their community. It cost only a third of what water once cost there. The reporter asked the women if the water had changed their lives. What a foolish question, I thought. How could water change a life? Then the women started talking.

“I can afford to shower every day now,” a woman said. “I feel clean for the first time in years.”

“Our house no longer smells. We take care of the toilet,” another woman told us.

Other comments came one after the other: “Now we can really wash the children and the vegetables.” “We can clean the house. Everything smells nice.” “We can clean the drain in front of the house.”

Finally a woman pointed to several drums of water that were stored near the water outlet. “We’re ready in case of fire. I can sleep at night,” she said.

Two years ago we had finished the “Panunuluyan of the Urban Poor” Mass with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and it was time for the people, especially the children, to eat. A 7- or 8-year-old girl, dressed as one of Santa’s helpers, brought her styrofoam lunch box over to the cathedral steps where I was sitting and squatted down to eat. She carefully opened the box and when she saw what was inside, she pulled back with her hands in the air, as if she had seen something priceless. She looked around to share her excitement.

“Wow!” she said out loud.

I went closer. In the box were two large golden brown pieces of Jollibee fried chicken.

It was probably the first time she ever had two pieces of chicken for herself. At Jollibee, two pieces of chicken cost P128, this is just about what the average urban poor family of five spends for its food in a day. Most poor children never have enough to eat.

In 1980, I visited the Zoto families who were moved from Tondo to the Dagat-Dagatan relocation site in Navotas. The people had struggled for 10 years to get good in-city relocation. I found one of our older leaders sitting in the 96-sq m lot the government had given her. I asked her how she liked her new home. Her old face was beaming. “I feel like I’m in paradise,” she told me.

On another level of experience altogether was the young woman with her parents I saw on the Oprah show some weeks ago. The young woman’s legs were fused at birth that they formed what was described on the program as a “mermaid’s tail.” The young woman can never have children or walk or even sit up without support, yet she is feisty and always smiling. She has finished college and is deciding what profession she will enter. She has no doubt she will succeed. She said she knows she can never have children, but she will adopt a child. She was wonderful on the show. But just as wonderful were the mother and father, who, while their girl talked, looked at her with enormous pride, love and gratitude. Meister Eckhart, a Medieval German mystic, used to say, “At least be grateful,” as if gratitude, like that of this father and mother, was the key to life’s riches.

There is an experience many priests have had, which brings us close to the Christmas mystery. They are asked to give communion to someone, adult or child, who is obviously and seriously troubled mentally. We believe some level of understanding is needed to receive communion, but who is to decide what that level is? Most priests I know give communion to the persons, believing that God who made them knows how to reach them in their shadows. Isn’t it at Christmas that God comes to this fallen race with all its blindness and darkened understanding? A less hopeful, less loving God would not come.

When we are grateful for knowing our names and having a small piece of land, two pieces of chicken, metered water and a special child we love, we are almost ready for Christmas.

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

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Monday, December 14, 2009

Urban Poor Reenact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter


Urban Poor Reenact Joseph and Mary’s Search for Shelter

Manila, 15 December 2009 (Tuesday). Over two thousand urban poor people will march along the streets of Manila today repeating the question asked by Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: "Do you have a decent place where we can stay?"

Led by Joseph, Mary and the three Kings, urban poor people in costumes will march from Gomburza Plaza in front of the old Senate Building along Padre Burgos Avenue to Manila Cathedral carrying lanterns, belen, stars and other Christmas symbols.

Participants include children, old people, victims of demolitions, scavengers, relocated railroad families, people’s organizations, various non-government organizations, friends and supporters.

The theme of this year’s Panunuluyan of the urban poor is “Umaasa at kumikilos tungo sa isang masagana at mapayapang lungsod”.

The Panunuluyan is sponsored by members of Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of non-government organizations such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), with the help of various NGOs and people’s organizations.

“The urban poor’s problem is homelessness. We realized that at Christmastime, homelessness was also the problem of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. So we tried to connect those two. We were not the first one who thought of that because there is the old custom of Panunuluyan in the villages (barrios). So we decided to reenact the old tradition of Joseph and Mary going from place to place looking for a place to settle in and where Mary can have a baby with the modern problem of homelessness of the people,” said Denis Murphy, Executive Director of UPA.

“We’ve done that every year since 1987, twenty two years. And I think over those years we’ve educated the poor people to understand that God understands what it is to be homeless after the experience in Bethlehem. And I hope we have educated the powers that be that they understand also in a small way that to leave the urban poor homeless or to make them homeless even worse is to render God homeless as the powers that be did in Bethlehem,” Murphy added.

This year urban poor people will have a drama. They will have the reenactment of the search of Mary and Joseph for a place to live. And then they will go into the church for Mass with Bishop Broderick Pabillo at 9:30 AM. After the mass, people will have contests – singing contest, carol contest, belen contest, dancing contest, costume contest; and lunch.

During the mass they will give some awards. One award is for the Urban Poor Person of the Year. This is for Myrna Porcare of North Fairview, Quezon City who was shot by security guards when she was trying to defend the homes of her fellow urban poor people.

They are also giving awards to the following: Congressman Leonardo Montemayor, Aba-Ako Party-list representative, for introducing House Bill 6675, the Omnibus Amendment Bill for Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) to protect the housing rights of the poor; Lawyer Jose Midas Marquez for his work reconciling the Supreme Court decision to clean up Manila Bay with the need to relocate the poor and give them adequate notice and consultation; Father Anton Pascual and Radyo Veritas for their unflagging advocacy on radio for the issues and concerns of the poor; And former Senator Joey Lina for his authorship of UDHA (R.A. 7279) that guarantees the right of the urban poor to adequate housing.

They are also giving a citation to a poor woman, Cirila Bulagner, in the name of all the members of Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), an elderly people’s organization, for her years of service to the elderly in providing home care and teaching others how to help the elderly.

According to UPA, there are thousands of homeless families in Metro Manila mainly because of forced evictions, illegal demolitions, lack of access to affordable housing and public services, labor contractualization, high cost of living, globalization, commercialism, displacements due to armed conflicts, rural to urban migration, graft and corruption, urban poverty aggravated by greed, selfishness and indifference. -30-

Thursday, December 10, 2009

MEDIA ADVISORY - Panunuluyan ng Maralitang Tagalungsod 2009

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Panunuluyan ng Maralitang Tagalungsod 2009

We are having our annual Panunuluyan of the Urban Poor again on the morning of December 15, 2009 (Tuesday) from 8:00AM to 1:00PM.

Panunuluyan recreates the search of Joseph and Mary for a shelter where their child Jesus might be born. We see this event in the light of the urban poor people’s search for homes, peace and a decent life.

Beginning at 8:00 AM, about 2,000 urban poor people will march from GOMBURZA Plaza (opposite Old Senate Bldg.) to Manila Cathedral.

There will be a mass led by Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila at 9:30 AM. During the mass, the Urban Poor Person of the Year Award will be given to the person who in the judgment of the poor has done the most for them. There will be a Christmas carol, games for the children, choir, parol, best in costume and belen-making contests and a lot more. Please join us and bring your friends.

Photo ops: Drama at Bethlehem – Modern reenactment of the search of Joseph and Mary for a room in the inn.

Date: December 15, 2009 (Tuesday)
Assembly point: GOMBURZA Plaza, Padre Burgos Street (8:00 AM)
Mass with Bishop Broderick Pabillo: Manila Cathedral (9:30 AM)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Urban Poor High Hopes with the New MMDA Chair


Urban Poor High Hopes with the New MMDA Chair

10 December 2009. Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation has high hope with the new chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Secretary Oscar Inocentes.

Denis Murhpy, Executive Director of UPA said, “We are all happy that the new chair is committed to doing everything legally and through dialogues. Over the last three years, Bayani Fernando evicted thousands of families illegally that is without proper notice, consultation and resettlement. And often removed small vendors from the road or sidewalks and confiscated or destroyed their goods. If the new chair dialogues in a sincere way he will find solutions that allow the poor to survive in the city and make a living.”

UPA research team noted, that this year alone there were 28 evictions, 6 of these evictions were conducted by MMDA and ended up violent.

Last November 11, 2009, before the new chair took over, MMDA demolished shanties in Estero De La Reina. The eviction turned out badly. Women and even pregnant women were fighting the demolition team over pieces of lumber and G.I roofing. Finally 10 families left Binondo in an MMDA truck at about 4 pm with a cross section of poor people and children. They arrived at the resettlement area in Norzagaray, Bulacan at 8 p.m. because of heavy traffic. But the local barangay captain told them they couldn’t enter because they only have a trip pass which was given by the MMDA personnel. So, the people have no choice but to come back to Binondo at 11 p.m. only to sleep on the sidewalk because their houses were already destroyed.

This action of MMDA earn the ire of the urban poor and has been singled out by civil society monitoring groups as the biggest violator of housing laws. Even though no law or executive order exempts MMDA from observing just and humane demolitions and evictions as provided by UDHA, the agency has repeatedly violated the law. Families living in shanties demolished by MMDA in 2008 for its beautification and urban renewal programs were not given adequate relocation, not even temporary shelters.

In parting, Murphy said, "In cities as crowded as Calcutta, India, the government and the food vendors were able to reach an agreement about selling and eating hot food at lunchtime on the sidewalks. Everyday four million people have a hot lunch in the sidewalks of Calcutta. There is soon for the vendors on our sidewalks if MMDA will sincerely try to reach a solution with them. The new chairperson's clearing moratorium for vendors on the sidewalks and informal settlers this December is hopeful."

Task Force Anti Eviction will continue to monitor MMDA’s program to ensure that there will be no more violent and illegal evictions. The group will cleave on the word of Sec. Inocentes that he will do everything “legally” and through dialogues.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Panunuluyan ng Maralitang Tagalungsod 2009

Dear Friends,

Greetings from all of us and the urban poor people we work with.

We are having our annual Panunuluyan of the Urban Poor again this year. It will take place on the morning of December 15, 2009 (Tuesday) from 8:00AM to 1:00PM at the Manila Cathedral.

As you know the Panunuluyan recreates the search of Joseph and Mary for a shelter where their child Jesus might be born. We see this event in the light of the urban poor people’s search for homes, peace and a decent life.

Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng not only brought great suffering upon the urban poor, as upon other sectors of society, but also revealed that there exists throughout society the belief that the poor are the cause of the floods. It is hard to remove such a belief by words alone, no matter how many times scientists tell us the poor were minor causes at most of the floods.

We believe it will help all people if we can spend a morning together.

Following the stars, about 2,000 to 3,000 urban poor people will march from GOMBURZA Plaza (opposite Old Senate Bldg. along Padre Burgos Street) to Manila Cathedral. The marchers will also include the Blessed Mother and Joseph.

Urban poor actors and actresses will perform the Nativity story in front of the Cathedral.

We will all attend mass led by Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, then pay attention to the songs, dances, skits and stories of the young, middle aged and very old poor people.

During the mass, the Urban Poor Person of the Year Award will be given to the person who in the judgment of the poor has done the most for them. Some recognition will also be given to friends of the urban poor.

The morning will end with a joint Act of Hope — poor and well-off together — in the Philippines and Philippine society.

There will be a Christmas carol, games for the children, choir, parol, best in costume and belen-making contests and a lot more.

We will provide a good lunch for everyone and a never-ending supply of ice cream for the kids. Participants include children, old people, victims of demolitions, scavengers, relocated families, leaders of people’s organization, urban poor friends and NGOs from all over Metro Manila.

Please join us and bring your friends.

See you on December 15.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cruelty to the poor and democracy

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : Cruelty to the poor and democracy

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 29, 2009

CRUELTY TO THE POOR BY GOVERNMENT people or the agents of the powerful are always surprising, since it seems so unnecessary. The urban poor with whom I’ve worked for many years are among the most patient, tolerant and realistic people God ever made. There’s no need for violence of any sort. The people will cooperate in any government plan that is based on consultations and common sense.

Instead, there is an endless tale of violence big and small done to them, which in the end undermines the people’s sense of their dignity and democracy itself, just as long rains loosen the soil on the hillside and eventually bring down the whole hill or mountain.

Cruelty manages to turn first-class citizens into resentful people, willing to scheme and do whatever may be needed to get what they want for themselves. Think of how the people of Estero dela Reina will react to government in the future after their experience with an eviction team of the Metro Manila Development Authority on Nov. 11. The people were told they had to get out of their homes of 20 or more years and relocate to the Norzagaray resettlement area, 40 kilometers or more away. They didn’t want to go, but they had little choice: whether they agreed to go or not their homes would be torn down.

The eviction turned out badly. People including women were injured in violent scuffles with the MMDA. Nothing is uglier than seeing women and even pregnant women and the demolition team fighting over pieces of lumber and G.I. roofing. Finally 10 families left Binondo in an MMDA truck at about 4 p.m. with a cross-section of poor people, the elderly, a few men, women, small children and babies. They arrived at the resettlement area at 8 p.m. because of the heavy traffic. The barangay captain there told them they couldn’t enter because they didn’t have the proper papers. They came back to Binondo at 11 p.m. to sleep on the sidewalk.

An almost similar episode took place a few days earlier. Families from Santolan, Pasig were brought to the Calauan resettlement area, 100 km from Manila. When they got there, they found there were no homes for them. They returned to Santolan, though now they were homeless. The callousness of the officials involved is breathtaking. No one apologizes. Not every poor person has to experience cruelty personally. Word of it travels fast in poor communities.

Sometimes matters turn truly violent. On Oct. 10 in North Fairview, Quezon City, Myrna Porcare, 52, was shot down with a shotgun at a distance of two or three meters by the security guards of the landowner. Her offense was to try to remove a fence put up illegally by the guards. Police watched the incident develop, but didn’t intervene. Myrna’s son was also killed. The killers are now out on bail.

It seems clear in this incident that these guards are not for security at all. No one was threatening them or the landowner, and the police were there to protect the demolition crew. The guards were not needed. Can the rich buy what can be called “special forces,” or “guns for hire,” who can be sent into an area to do whatever the owner wants?

There are even more harsh incidents against the poor in the rural areas, around mining sites, in factories and plantations, and once in a while something like the Maguindanao massacre. People treated unfairly over time lose any sense that they are citizens of a democracy where their rights as human beings under God should be guaranteed and their human freedoms defended. To be a citizen should bring rights and security, and, hence, pride. Even St. Paul was proud to say he was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37).

Paradoxically, it should be added that Filipino government officials are among the most accessible officials in the world. Hundreds of poor people meet the President every month, troop the halls of the House and Senate, visiting the officials one after the other, or talk to their mayors and Cabinet officers. That is democracy at its best.

Of all the varieties of violence the saddest is that between the demolition teams and the urban poor men and women. The demolition people are urban poor themselves, so it is one poor man trying to keep his family going against another poor man or woman trying to do exactly the same. The powerful have set poor against poor. Nothing destroys more quickly any sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among the poor. It is sinister for that reason.

In the last analysis these cruel ways come down from the top officials and the elite, as do most values in society, so it’s up to the powerful to stop the practice.

On Nov. 18 in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources people had a chance to witness how citizens can deal with abuses of authority. The people of Mindoro were there to protest a Norwegian mining company’s activity on the island. There were the governors and bishops of the two provinces, the clergy, mayors, academicians, Fr. Robert Reyes, NGOs, Mangyans and other ordinary people. They were telling the environment secretary they couldn’t accept the permission he gave to the mining company to begin work. They said he had made a big mistake. How in a democracy can a single national official overrule a decision of all the people of an island, who are the most likely to know their situation and what is best for them? The people of Mindoro show the effectiveness of people at different levels of society joining together in search of good law, the proper use of authority—and democracy.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His e-mail address is

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Friday, November 20, 2009

COHRE condemns violent forced eviction at Baclaran Mosque


COHRE condemns violent forced eviction at Baclaran Mosque

International human rights organisation calls for independent inquiry into killings

20 November 2009, Pasay City: The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today strongly condemned the reported killing of three residents of the Baclaran Mosque community in Pasay City during an apparently illegal operation to forcibly evict the community from their homes on 18 November 2009. COHRE has sent a letter to President Gloria Arroyo to express its concerns and to call for an urgent independent inquiry into the incidents of 18 November 2009 as well as to hold all those responsible to account.

Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of the COHRE Asia Programme, said: “Regardless of the legality of the eviction, there can be no justification for the use of lethal weapons. The use of fire arms against protesters and the reported death of three community members points to an apparent disproportionate use of force by police forces that demonstrates a disregard for the most fundamental human rights among those who implemented the eviction”.

In its letter to President Arroyo, COHRE recalls previous attempts to forcibly and illegally remove residents from their homes, most recently in August 2009, and exposes the apparent unlawfulness of the eviction on 18 November. “It appears that authorities had no executable eviction order against the community, as they relied on an August order which, under implementing rules and regulations of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), expired after 90 days”, said Dan Nicholson.

He further expressed his strong concern that the events at Baclaran Mosque are not an isolated incident: “We are very concerned that this latest eviction is but one case that represents an ongoing culture of lack of respect for the law and human rights in the carrying out of evictions by certain authorities in Manila. In a separate forced eviction case in Pechayan, North Fairview, Quezon City in October 2009, a community leader and her son were shot dead by security guards. There can be absolutely no justification for serious injuries and deaths as a result of evictions. In fact, such incidents violate the duty of the Government of the Philippines to respect and protect the right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and point to a persistent failure of the Government of the Philippines to honour its international legal obligations.”

COHRE further pointed out that forced evictions are a violation of the right to adequate housing contained in Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Under the Covenant, evictions can only be carried out lawfully under exceptional circumstances, and only when a number of safeguards are followed, which include, among others, the provision of adequate alternatives to those affected and the prohibition of rendering persons homeless.

“In the case of the Baclaran Mosque community, the homes of approximately 400 families were reportedly destroyed and the proposed relocation site is rejected as inadequate to meet the community’s needs”, said Nicholson.

“We call on the authorities in the Philippines to immediately conduct an independent inquiry into the violence of 18 November and to promptly make the findings public. Those responsible for violations of Philippines’ law have to be held to account, including through criminal charges where appropriate, both in respect of the disproportionate use of force and the legality of the eviction,” he said.

“The community needs to immediately be provided with adequate shelter and emergency relief while a permanent solution that suits the community’s needs is found in consultation with them. Last but not least, compensation for injury and death as well as for material losses needs to be provided to all those affected,” he added.


For more information, contact:

Dan Nicholson; COHRE Asia and Pacific Programme Coordinator; +855.17.523.274;;


The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is an international human rights non-governmental organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in Asia, Africa and the Americas. COHRE works to promote and protect the right to adequate housing, including preventing and remedying forced evictions. Together with local partner Urban Poor Associates (UPA), COHRE has worked with the Baclaran Mosque community since 2007.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jihad at Our Doorstep?


Jihad at Our Doorstep?

19 November 2009. Muslim men and demolition crew were throwing stones at each other. Pasay police were firing guns. Children, women, and elderly were running and no safe place to go. These were the scenes yesterday in the Rajah Sulayman Lumba Ranao Grand Mosque along Roxas Blvd. , Pasay City, during the execution of demolition of shanties surrounding the mosque.

Abdelmanan Tanandato, president of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Nademolis sa Roxas Boulevard was teary eyed when he found out that three of his people died including a young boy. But he was composed adding, “That there is nothing to worry about. The dead men are already in paradise with Allah because they were killed in jihad defending the holy mosque.”

Task Force Anti-Eviction (TFAE) composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and the Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise Foundation (COPE) said that they had warned the government that blood will flow on the disputed land if they will pursue the demolition. But the government turned deaf ears.

Now, that they had tried forcible eviction which resulted in death, the TFAE is wondering what will happen to our Muslim brothers and sisters. They also wonder whether the police involved will be questioned about their activity? The group says there is already too much violence in the evictions done in Manila .

Tanandato and the entire Muslim community will file criminal charges against the Pasay police. They will also question the notice to vacate dated August 11, 2009 from Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 274, as not valid to carry out the eviction. The order was not implemented on August thus, another 30-day notice is necessary.

“We were just informed by some friends that we must prepare because the demolition would be executed anytime in the month. Our only weapons against the eight hundred man demolition team were stones and slings. We barricaded the mosque but when the police fire their guns and shot our men, our group weakened,” he added.

Amir Saripada, one who fought the police, said, “Kami ay isa sa mga milyon-milyong Pilipino pero hindi nila kami tinatrato ng tama. Iniisip ko na nga lang bumalik sa Mindanao para maging sakit na ng lipunan.” (We are one of the million Filipinos but we are not treated right. I am thinking of going back to Mindanao to become the enemy of society.)

The public officials who were present yesterday said that they will not demolish the mosque until a new mosque is constructed on a 500 square meter property in Parañaque. This refers to the memorandum issued by Secretary Eduardo Ermita on 26th of May this year to Philippine Reclamation Authority Manager Andrea Domingo, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, and Office of Muslim Affairs Executive Director Ali Sangki informing them of President’s instruction to relocate the entire mosque to a proposed relocation site adjacent to the Coastal Road . The memorandum said the reclaimed land on which the mosque stands must be cleared to give way to Southwest Public Transport Intermodal Center (Metrotrans).

However, UPA’s Research team, found out that the Lot No. 5155 in Parañaque where the new mosque will be built has a private claimant in the name of Bernardo De Leon. The case is still pending in the Supreme Court.

Ted Añana, Deputy Coordinator of UPA said, “This is the third time that violent eviction took place in that reclaimed land. Still, the government has no acceptable relocation site for the residents and the place for new mosque is dubious.”

“We cannot blame the Muslims in their resistance,” Añana added. “For them, it is a sacred place and defending the mosque up to their last breath is superior in the eyes of Allah. We are reiterating again to the government to let the mosque stay and make it a symbol of Muslim and Christian understanding.”


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Demolition in Baclaran turns bloody

12 hurt in Baclaran demolition
11/19/2009 | 12:38 AM

Tension mars demolition of shanties in Pasay City

11/18/2009 | 10:48 AM

12 hurt in demolition in Pasay City
11/18/2009 | 12:49 PM

Monday, November 16, 2009



Unless the lord builds the house, those who build it labor
in pain. (PS 127, 1)

After the terrible destructions brought about by typhoon Ondoy in our metropolis, we now embark in rebuilding our lives and our cities. Life must go on. We must move on. We move now to the arduous work of rehabilitation. Let us do this not haphazardly and superficially so that we rebuild on firm foundations and the sufferings of others may not be aggravated. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord and his teachings.

On October 9, Aling Myrna and her teen-age son, residents of a community living in North Fairview, were shot to death by a private security guard as they protested the location of a fence being put up to keep them and their community “out of danger!”

Why do the thousands of people, people like Aling Myrna, cling to their homesites even in danger areas, and resist relocation to safer sites outside the city? The answer is simple. Their sources of livelihood are in the city, and there are none in far-away relocation areas. Commuting to the city from these areas would take many hours each day and would cost a very substantial part of a day’s income. Better the risks of life as an informal settler in a danger zone, they argue, than death by starvation in nice houses far away.

These, be it noted, are the people who keep the city humming. They are mainly market vendors and small tradespeople, bus and taxi drivers, washwomen and house help, janitors and construction workers, even policemen, firemen and public school teachers. They do not beg in the streets or steal food. Without them the city would come to a halt. Yet there is no legal place for them in the city.

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Centesimus Annus” (no. 43) is sharp and to the point on this matter.

“The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace.”

Behind the killing of Aling Myrna and her son lies a whole “structure of sin,”: land values which are far beyond the reach of our poor and many of the middle class, low taxes on unused land, the use of vast amounts of land for shopping malls, for upscale residential subdivisions and golf courses.

The term “structure of sin” tells us that the evil is pervasive, built into the structures of our society, something of which we are all a part. If the construction workers who build our homes and offices received wages sufficient for legal income, those homes and houses would cost far more than they do. Our newspapers would cost far more if the scavengers in Payatas who collect old paper for recycling were able to live away from the garbage and filth. Indeed, practically all that we buy or the services we use bear the mark of this sin.

It is not enough then, to simply order people off the waterways. A deep restructuring of our society is called for, starting in the present crisis with urban and land policy. To this effort of restructuring, we, the Archbishop and Bishops of Metro Manila pledge our full support. Hence we call for:

1. Urban land reform so that the poor may have the possibility to have security of tenure in our cities where their livelihood is found.

2. A moratorium on demolition of the dwellings of the poor if there is no humane relocation for them as our present laws require. Humane relocation would include accessible places of work for them.

3. A follow through of the processes to allot public lands to the poor in the areas that have been given to them by presidential declarations. Let the public lands declared by the President be developed and effectively be made available to the poor.

4. Legislations to raise taxes on properties that are idle, or to altogether expropriate them. The right to private property should not be given priority but the common good.

“Christian tradition has never recognized the right to property as absolute and untouchable. The right to private property is subordinate to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone. Private property is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.” (Compendium on the Social Teachings of the Church #177)

5. The swift implementations of the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws by disallowing heavy and highly pollutive industries within our cities which are densely residential and commercial. The zoning ordinances of the cities should be reviewed. Heavy industries, and not the poor should be relocated outside of our cities. If this is done, more people will move out of our cities to work in these industries.

6. In re-settling the poor and rehabilitating our cities priority should be given to the employment of the people. Informal settlers have grown in number because of lack of employment possibilities in places outside the metropolis. The “squatting” problem is not primarily a problem of housing; it is a problem of employment.

7. Let us not blame the poor in the waterways for the flooding of our cities. Let us look beyond: the unabated logging in Sierra Madre and Mt. Banahaw, mining ventures in our mountains, haphazard collection and unplanned disposal of our garbage, irresponsible city planning and development of subdivisions, just to name a few. Together let us take a hard look at our present practices and have the political will to reform them. In truth we can say that the government officials and the rich have more to do with the destruction of our environment that aggravated the recent flood than the poor!

There are many cries for reform as we experienced the unprecedented calamities of our times. We join our voices as your pastors in this call but we call for much deeper reforms that would really address and better the situation of our cities. Only when the needs of the least in our society are addressed will our society achieve true and lasting development.

Let us not lose courage. Let is heed the voice of God in the recent events. God is telling us something. We have experienced the bayanihan and damayan spirit in a remarkable degree these few weeks. This tells us that if we want to, we can work together and be concerned even to the point of sacrifice. Let us then continue to work together and be concerned to reform our ways that the environment be respected and protected and the poor be given deeper consideration so that they too may have a more generous part in the development of our cities.

Your pastors in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Archbishop of Manila

Auxiliary Bishop of Manila

Auxiliary Bishop of Manila

Congratulations to Caritas at Maralita and Ms Penelope "Jing" Lanzona

Caritas at Maralita and Ms Penelope "Jing" Lanzona were nominated finalist for the Best Public Service Radio Program and Best Public Service Radio Program Host at the 18th Golden Dove Awards of Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) held at Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City on Nov. 13, 2009.

“CARITAS AT MARALITA” (literally means Love/Care for the Poor) is a one hour radio program by the people, to the people and for the people ! Aired over a Catholic but commercial radio station, VERITAS 846 KHz AM every Saturday at 1:30 – 2:30 pm and live via audio streaming at Modesty aside, this is the only radio program produced by an NGO (Urban Poor Associates) together with a Peoples Organization which made it as “FINALIST” in the Catholic Mass Media Awards for Best Public Service Radio Program. Survey made by the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcasters ng Pilipinas (KBP, an independent organization of all media practitioners in the Philippines ), this 10 yr. old program has more than eight hundred thousand (800 plus) households loyal audience in its timeslot. Keeping and adhering to quality,comprehensive and holistic presentation and offering alternatives to each topic affecting the lives of the poor has made Radio Veritas more committed to this program by giving us free airtime and even adding 1 more hour every Saturday.

This Radio Program uses the AIRWAVES in supporting and strengthening the ground works of the different Peoples Organizations, Non-Government Organizations, Civic and Religious Groups in upholding HOUSING RIGHTS which is actually provided by Philippine Law known as Urban and Development Housing Act (UDHA) but consistently violated by the government especially the office of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Banking on the power of Radio, we use this program in advocating and lobbying to our Legislators/Lawmakers in pushing legislations and enact into law that would benefit not only the urban poor but other marginalized groups on issues like Ancestral Domain, Environment, the Elderly, Gender, Women and Children and the like. Through the years we have found allies both from the Lower House and the Senate, Municipal Mayors, ordinary listeners and from our International Community. However, we also have critics and even receive threats from other government officials whom we require to be accountable for failures in delivering basic services to people.

Featuring successful, inspiring and even entertaining stories of ordinary individual, organization, communities and other popular personalities make the program even more interesting and appealing to our audience. More importantly, this radio program gives “VOICE” to the “VOICELESS” without prejudice!!!


1.Using the AIRWAVES in giving support and strengthening the ground works
to our campaigns to the following issues affecting the lives of the poor :

a.) Upholding Security of Tenure.
b.) No Demolition if there’s no Adequate and Humane Relocation as provided by Philippine Law (UDHA) and insisting on ON-Site or Near City Relocation.
c.) Assisting poor and marginalized communities to secure proper trainings on livelihood programs.
d.) Facilitating and providing segment on Human Rights and
Value formation programs.

2. Giving VOICE to the VOICELESS.
2. Educating and Informing the rest of the strata of our society specially the middle class which is indifferent toward the urban poor about the plight of this sector.
3. Using the power of Radio specially in asking government officials
for dialogues between Peoples Organization Leaders and Representative from Non-Government Organizations.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Myrna and Celia

Commentary : Myrna and Celia

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 13, 2009

It’s the time to choose the winner of the Urban Poor Person of the Year Award, which is given each year to a person (rich or poor), government official, business person or civil society leader, who, in the opinion of the poor, has done the most for them during the year. Last year’s award went to Chair Leila de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights for her struggle against forced and illegal evictions.

There are a number of nominees for the award. The list includes Myrna Porcare who lived in North Fairview, Quezon City, along the Tullahan River. Myrna was 52, a mother of seven and the leader of the poor people of her area. She was murdered on Oct. 10. She attempted to stop the security guards from setting up fences around her property and that of her neighbors. She tried to remove the fence and for that she was dealt a shotgun blast, from a distance of two to three meters, directly into her chest and stomach. When her 18-year-old son tried to help, he, too, was gunned down. The two bodies lay in the filthy garbage the river had strewn over the area during the “Ondoy” storm. Myrna had been president of the Samasape (Samahan ng Magkakapitbahay sa Pechayan), a people’s organization since 1997. She was re-elected in 1998. “She was the only one who stuck up for our rights,” her sister told me mournfully.

The guards who shot Myrna are now out on bail, but their agency hasn’t stopped intimidating the people. The day after the shooting and the initial hearing before the Quezon City prosecutor, residents of North Fairview were questioned by guards in their area. The guards showed P1,000 bills and asked residents where the witnesses who had testified at the hearing lived. They said they wanted to give the money to the witnesses for their needs. A day later Fr. Robert Reyes and I met more guards sprawled on the floor of a hut not far from Myrna’s house, sleeping with their guns alongside them. They hadn’t a care in the world.

The legal landowner is not known to be very wealthy, so people wonder whether some powerful person(s) may be behind the murders. A few days before the shooting, some 200 police and demolition team members came to evict the few families scheduled for demolition by the court. It is generally believed such support for an eviction on private land requires large amounts of money.

It seems that no good comes to the poor people of the Philippines from the deaths of their good leaders, such as, Myrna and the farmer, factory worker and sugar worker leaders who have been murdered over the last few years. In the Early Church, Christians probably also wondered what good came from the deaths of so many ordinary people at the hands of the Romans. It was only after decades, maybe centuries of reflection, that it was recognized that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.” Someday, Myrna and all the other dead may be recognized as the seed of a finer, more democratic Philippines where all men and women are assured of their human rights.

But not all poor women are leaders, and fortunately not all are killed. There are thousands of women in the slums who lead quite noble lives of caring and sacrifice but are never praised. Celia Regulacion who died very recently of TB in her mid-40s may receive a special award in the name of all these women.

Celia didn’t have money for medicines after she had bought food for her children, but she did buy five or six sticks of cigarettes a day. Her friends say it eased the pain of TB. Her husband didn’t work. She was often coughing and didn’t feel good, but still every day she helped the Kabalikat people’s organization as a census interviewer. She was a tireless talker, funny and always kind, according to her friends.

Toward the end of her life, it didn’t seem to matter to her whether she died or not. She certainly didn’t do all she could to get medicine or pay for a doctor. “She was dying but her sickness didn’t put her down,” her neighbor said. She was as pleasant as ever and she continued to volunteer, but there just wasn’t enough joy in life to keep her going beyond the short life she had been fated. She had lived as long as needed to raise the children. She couldn’t afford to stay in the hospital. Who would buy food for her children? She told her husband to go back to the provinces as she could no longer provide food for him. On her deathbed, she refused to use the breathing equipment, though her children begged her to keep struggling.

Celia had her limitations which sometimes upset her friends, but they miss their old friend. They laugh spontaneously when they talk of her. It seems the handle of her coffin broke and she fell to the ground in the graveyard. They remember Celia had looked angry when they saw her at her wake and that she looked angrier and angrier day by day because she wasn’t being buried. And then, suddenly, the circle of women began laughing.

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

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Urban poor people are blamed for the floods caused by typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). Government officials demand they be prohibited from moving back to their homes along the rivers and esteros. The president has said that in the makeover of Metro Manila we must “rid the city” of informal settlers as if they were vermin.

There is no scientific basis proposed for such violent actions. Loggers in the Sierra Madre and developers may be more guilty. We may evict 80,000 families from the waterways at great expense and suffering only to find in 20 years the floods are back and stronger than ever. There must be a rock solid scientific reason to disrupt the lives of 400,000 persons.

Riverbank and lakeside dwellers will not insist on returning to their homes if they are offered in-city relocation near their jobs and the children’s schools.

The poor were affected that fateful Saturday (Sept. 26)just as the middle-class people. Unlike the middle-class, however, the poor had no place to go except back to their homes by the waterways.

Distant relocation is not the answer as there are usually no jobs available in the far away sites. Jobs are basic: without regular income the people will be hungry and soon return.

Let us move into 21st century thinking by making Metro Manila and our other cities inclusive ones that integrate the urban poor into their midst rather than force them into illegality on degraded sites. These diminish their humanity and serve as constant reminders of social injustices perpetuated by “the only Christian country in Asia.”

We call for a serious examination of the causes of the floods. Can it not be done by the Senate? What, if any, was the role of the poor? Who is really to blame?

We call for both public and idle private land near the riverbanks to be identified and set aside for riverbank and lakeside settlement, negotiated by government for temporary social housing use until it can identify and prepare permanent social housing sites for them in the city. We believe, however, on-site upgrading is the best solution.

We also call for a serious re-examination of our current unjust and inefficient land use patterns and a serious look at the implications of urbanization for all Filipinos, especially the poorer citizenry.

It is time to initiate humane and effective approaches that will enable our urban poor workforce to remain in the city, enjoy their rights as Filipino citizens, and help realize a vibrant, competitive, humane and inclusive Asian city.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists



As the country moves to repair the damage brought by tropical storm ‘Ondoy’, we hear what the government and professionals think should be done. However, we really don’t know what the people most affected namely the urban poor, think and feel. Without their cooperation a good solution is not possible.

We are organizing a forum on Oct. 28 (Wednesday), 4:00-6:00PM, at the Ateneo de Manila University to hear the thoughts of urban poor people.

People attending will include journalists, religious superiors, academic leaders, NGO workers, government officials and poor people.

We have also invited CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima, Sr. Aida Velasquez OSB, Teodoro Katigbak, Mary Racelis, Conrado de Quiros, Florencio Abad and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo to dialog with the poor people about one another’s solutions and analyses.

There will be an open forum and an effort to come up with some key resolutions which can be presented to government and civil society groups. These can be discussed further with the people and finally presented to media.

By the end of the afternoon we may know a little bit better what are the best solutions and be able to move further along in implementing them. We hope you can attend.

Date: October 28, 2009 (Wednesday) / 4:00-6:00PM

Venue: Conference Hall, Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Friday, October 23, 2009


Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Baseco Inter-Agency Network
27 October 2009 / Tuesday
Baseco Compound, Brgy. 649, Zone 68, Port Area, Manila


6:30-7:00 Assembly for the Parade

7:00-8:45 Parade

8:45-9:00 Snacks and Preparation for the Program

9:00-9:10 Invocation - Open Heart Foundation

9:10-9:15 National Anthem - World Vision Development Foundation

9:15-9:25 Welcome Remarks - Hon. Kristo Hispano, Brgy. Chairman

9:25-9:35 Special Message - Mr. Emmanuel Soriano, Principal

9:35-9:45 Special Message from a Child - Mark Lunchael Gadi, Lingap Pangkabataan

9:45-9:55 Intermission Number - WMC-CARE

9:55-10:25 Recognition of Outstanding Parents/Volunteers

10:25-10:35 Commitment Signing - Ms Lani Cantilang
Directress- WMC-CARE
10:35-11:25 Cheering Competition / Face Painting

11:25-11:30 Awarding of Winners

☼ World Mission Community – CARE ☼ Hope Worldwide Philippines ☼ Open Heart Foundation / Buklod ☼ Lingap Pangkabataan Foundation ☼ Manila Department of Social Welfare ☼ Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco ☼ World Vision Development Foundation ☼ Baseco Elementary School ☼ Barangay Council ☼

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Pinoy ‘New Deal’

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : A Pinoy ‘New Deal’

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: October 18, 2009

MANILA, Philippines-In the days after Ted Kennedy's death, when people discussed his role in American political history, the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt often arose. At first it was just talk, comparing him and Kennedy, but then by some strange providence of the Lord, the man himself came back from the shadows of history. He was seen in Washington, D.C. being pushed about in his wheelchair. The former US president, father of the New Deal program that saved America’s poor in the Great Depression of the 1930s and polio victim, was back from the grave for a brief while. He seemed to enjoy every minute of his return.

He met with President Barack Obama in the White House and with Ted Kennedy’s family. Kennedy was often called “The last of the New Deal Democrats,” that is, those Democrats who worked in season and out of season almost exclusively for the poor.

Then Roosevelt surprised everyone by asking to meet with the candidates for the Philippine presidency. I was in Washington, so I was asked to help gather the candidates. We met in the Philippine Embassy in Washington. There were eight candidates, seven men and a woman. We sat in a semi-circle around his wheelchair.

I told the candidates the little I knew of the former president and his New Deal: When he entered the White House in 1933, some 30 percent of American workers were unemployed; thousands of small farms were foreclosed monthly; unions were beaten down and ineffective; and Wall Street reeled out of control. Roosevelt turned this situation upside down. He started Social Security for the old and handicapped, strengthened labor unions, saved the small farms, created jobs, controlled the banks and financiers, and effectively restored the American people’s faith in their country.

What I didn’t tell the candidates because I didn’t know how the old president would react was that critics say he brought class struggle between the rich and the poor into American politics. He said he was simply restoring justice.

“Yes,” said Roosevelt, when I finished, “and anyone of you can do the same for the Philippines and even more. I know something about the Philippines. I signed the law that created the Commonwealth. I oversaw MacArthur’s return. It wasn’t all his doing, was it? But you know all that history better than I do, so let’s talk instead of what may be more relevant, namely, our program of government in the 1930s that came to be called the ‘New Deal,’ and its usefulness in today’s Philippines. What was it, or better, what is it, since ideas are timeless? The New Deal comes down to this: we gather state power for the benefit of all citizens, but especially for the poor and handicapped. I think the Philippines needs something very much like it.”

I could see he was enjoying himself. “I have a test,” he told them, “that will help me judge who among you is most likely to introduce a New Deal-type program in your country. I’m looking for someone who is clever, passionate for the poor and lucky. I’m dead, but I can still help that person and I will. Here is the test.”

He told us there was going to be a great flood in Manila in a month or so. Hundreds of thousands would be affected. The poor living along the waterways would be blamed for the flooding and many would be banished. The rich—government officials, developers and loggers—who really did the damage would not be touched. There would be widespread hunger. Then he asked, “What will you do as a candidate when this flood occurs?”

The candidates took a few minutes to think and then one after another they told him what they would do. Roosevelt listened and at the end said, “I’m disappointed. I don’t see anything like a New Deal political analysis in your thinking. For example, who’s to blame for the floods? The poor or the rich and powerful? Don’t let them blame the poor. Blame the rich and let the poor know you are on their side in the controversy, and will be on their side as president.”

The candidates were taken aback by his criticism. “Well, what would you do?” one of them asked.

He answered, “Do you agree nothing will change unless the Philippines gets a government that acknowledges its existence to the 60-70 percent of the voters who are poor and near poor, and makes them its special and favored constituency?”

The candidates nodded in agreement. Roosevelt was happy now that he had his audience agreeing. He put a cigarette in his long black cigarette holder and lit it. Strange, though, we couldn’t smell the smoke. He went on: “In the case of the floods, I would go to the affected people and ask them what they want me and my partymates to do for them in the flood crisis. When they tell us what they want, I’d go and do it, at least, I’d try. I’d fight government efforts to evict the squatters. I’d be in the courts and in the front lines when the police came to evict them. I’d picket with the poor outside the grain bodegas if there were no food.”

He said, “Some will accuse you of electioneering, but the poor won’t and their allegiance is all you need. You must, however, be sincere. The poor will spot faking.

“I’d make sure the poor people are aware that I know what their problems are and that I really care what happens to them. In the meantime before the election, I’d spend my money to bring in earth-moving equipment to clean up the city streets and to remove the mud from the homes. I’d buy new clothes for the children and the women. The men, too, of course, but women and children first. I’d work alongside the men in the mud. I’d treat the poor women as the saints they are. We are in a democracy in the Philippines and in a democracy the majority rules, but it must be aware of its power and take advantage of that power. In democracies reform comes through the ballots of the poor.”

The candidates were writing everything down feverishly.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His e-mail address is

©Copyright 2001-2009, An Inquirer Company

Thursday, October 15, 2009


SHELTER FROM HARM A girl whiles away the hours playing in front of her house in Bagong Silangan, Q.C. on Oct. 4.


Typhoon Ondoy no sooner began to subside than government once again blamed the poor families - - estimated to number about 80,000 families (400,000 men, women and mostly children) - - for the unprecedented flooding.

The government has prohibited these poor families from returning to their homes from the evacuation centers. Housing officials talk publicly about evicting all 80,000 families and relocating them outside the city, far from jobs and basic services.

These government actions are based on the belief that the poor caused the floods by blocking the esteros and rivers. Luckily there were other explanations for the flooding. Architects, geologists and urban planners reminded us that the causes of the floods were much more complex. Cabinet and city officials connived with developers to violate sensible planning rules. Others logged and quarried in the mountains around Metro Manila. Climate change played a role. Guilty, too, are those city officials who ignored the instructions of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992 that each city should set aside land for social housing. If that had been done 17 years ago, there would be fewer families on the rivers and esteros.

The poor are partially to blame, but there is a huge difference between the poor, the officials and developers. The latter violate the law for gain, motivated by greed. The poor live on the shabby waterways because they have too. They are there to survive and would gladly move to a relocation center in the city where they could get back and forth to their jobs. They are not necessarily opposed to relocation but to evictions and relocation that are inhuman and violate the Constitution, the country’s international covenants and laws.

We ask for two things. First, let government establish an independent board of inquiry to look into the basic causes of the flooding. We will then know who the main violators of the common good are. The study can examine also the possibilities of in-city relocation for the poor on the waterways.

Secondly, we ask government not to evict poor people until we have an explanation of what really went wrong and fully prepared and discussed plans.

The urban poor will resist evictions and relocation that violate the law and further impoverish them.

If government will not make such an inquiry, the urban poor will do so to the best of their ability.

Do not make the poor the scapegoat for the greed of the wealthy and powerful. We see poor people walking the streets looking for rice for their families. Don’t add to their suffering.

The urban poor extend their compassion to all who suffered in Ondoy, especially to the families of those who died trying to help others. May God take care of all of us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Urban Poor Mother, Son Killed


Urban Poor Mother, Son Killed

Quezon City, 13 October 2009. Maria Myrna Porcare, a vocal leader of Samahan ng Magkakapitbahay sa Pechayan (SAMASAPE), and his son Jimyr Porcare were shot dead by the land owner-hired security guards on October 9, 2009, Friday afternoon over a disputed piece of property in Pechayan, Brgy. North Fairview, a community near Tullahan River.

According to witnesses, the victim was just trying to stop the guards from fencing the area because they were already going beyond what was stated in the court order. The 2.4 hectare Pechayan is home for more than 1,000 informal settler families for about 20 years. The revival of eviction case against a certain Domingo couple at the Metropolitam Trial Court Branch 38 of Quezon City sustained Melecio Lavares’ claim over a portion of land. The land owner was able to secure a writ of execution against Domingo.

However, the guards adamantly continued fencing the entire 2.4 hectares of land which was beyond the court’s order. Thus, settlers resisted. Porcare was killed by a shotgun blast in the stomach. Her son came to rescue his mother but he was also shot dead in the thorax. Carrying shotguns, some 15 security guards are present at the crime scene.

Suspects were charged two counts of homicide with the help of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights NGO. The suspects were detained at the Crime Investigation Detection Unit of Camp Karingal on Oct. 9.

Lawyer Ritche Esponilla, UPA legal counsel, said, “We will never tire ourselves prosecuting the two suspects to make sure that justice will be served to the mother and son who were unlawfully killed for fighting over their shelter rights.”

“We are likewise weighing all legal possibilities if we can file charges against the land claimant, the security agency and even against the sheriff for failing to properly supervise the execution of the issued writ which led to this very unfortunate incident,” he added.

Father Robert Reyes, also known as the running priest, in a mass this morning emphasized the greatness of the mother and son who died protecting their rights as a citizen of this country. “The mother died protecting her family’s right to housing and as a consequence her son also died protecting his mother’s right to live. They are heroes of urban poor,” he told residents during the homily.

“The rights of the poor diminished all of a sudden because of the government’s negligence to its duty to serve and protect. But we should not lose hope and instead justice should be served to Myrna and Jimyr’s death by continuing our fight for decent housing,” the Catholic priest added

Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as UPA, Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation condemn the killing.

The group urges the government to act “with expediency to resolve this crime and to investigate the conduct of demolitions and evictions, may it involve government or private land.” -30-

Maria Myrna Porcare - 42-year-old

Jimyr Porcare - 18-year-old

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Media Advisory - Launching of KAYAKo

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Launching of KAYAKo

Father Robert Reyes, also known as the running priest, invites you at the launching of Kalikasan Kabuhayan Katarungan ora mismo (KAYAKo) tomorrow (Oct. 12 / Monday) beginning at 8:00 AM at the Marikina City riverbanks adjacent to Marcos Highway.

Father Reyes will be rowing along Marikina River using a kayak, a small human-powered boat, to pray and support the urban poor particularly the thousands of families threatened with forced evictions due to the recent flash floods brought about by typhoon Ondoy.

There will be a signature campaign for the causes of KAYAKo. At 10:00 AM there will be a press conference at Treehouse, Matalino Street in Quezon City.

The Catholic priest will be rowing around Laguna Lake the following weeks to spearhead series of causes including care for environment, relief operations for flood victims, fisherfolk issues, disaster preparedness, urban land reform, among others.

Supporting this initiative are groups such as Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Kubol Pag-asa, Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Bulgar, Mamamayan para sa Pagpapaunlad at Pagpapanatili ng Lawa (MAPAGPALA), and the Philippine Dragonboat Team.

Date: October 12, 2009 (Monday)

Time/Venue: 8:00 AM – Marikina City riverbanks

Time/Venue: 10:00 AM - Treehouse, Matalino Street, Q.C.


Kalikasan Kabuhayan Katarungan ora mismo (KAYAKo)

Kaya kong ipagtanggol ang kalikasan.

Kaya kong mabuhay na may dignidad.

Kaya kong ipagtanggol ang karapatang pantao.

Kaya kong lumaya sa pagkakaapi.

Kaya kong linisin ang kapaligiran.

Kaya kong itaguyod ang pagbabago.

Kaya kong paunlarin ang ating bayan.

Kaya kong ipaglaban at harapin ang katarungan.

Kaya kong mabuhay para sa bayan.

Kaya kong ipaglaban ang aking karapatang manirahan sa kalunsuran.

Kaya kong pigilan ang pagwasak sa kalikasan.

Kaya kong baguhin ang maling kaugalian.

Kaya kong gawin ito, ora mismo!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Urban Poor Asks Supreme Court to Convene Advisory Committee on Manila Bay Clean Up


Urban Poor Asks Supreme Court to Convene Advisory Committee on Manila Bay Clean Up

08 October 2009. Eight months after the creation of the advisory committee that will oversee the Manila Bay clean up, the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) filed before the Supreme Court today a motion to convene the advisory committee and to submit report if no laws are violated or will be violated as well as other human and shelter rights by the concerned government agencies implementing the court’s decision to clean up Manila Bay.

The creation of the advisory committee came following the filing of a motion for clarification by the said group and the informal settlers who cried foul over the demolition of their houses without prior notice by the personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), supposedly in line with the ruling of the court issued on December 18, 2008 concerning the Manila Bay cleanup.

In a nine-page motion, the urban poor group through their lawyer, Ritche Esponilla, stressed that the urgency in convening the advisory committee is to come out with its official report. The report is to concern whether or not the various implementing government agencies follow the relevant laws or not particularly R.A 7279 or the Act providing for the Comprehensive and Continuing Urban Development and Housing Program.

UPA said 70,000 urban poor families surrounding Manila Bay are in danger of being demolished without due relocation. Earlier this year, it was also reported that unannounced and illegal demolitions were carried out along waterways and esteros surrounding the area of Manila Bay.

“There is an urgent need to convene the advisory committee as different government agencies are hastily implementing the clean up as a result of tropical storm Ondoy,” Atty. Esponilla said.

Atty. Esponilla said while the clean up is valuable and must be duly supported by all sectors it must not come at the expense of displacing thousands of urban poor families already marginalized by society.

“Let us be clear about two things here. One, the poor are not the major cause of the floodings. Second, the urban poor communities are not against any move to clean up Manila bay in order to restore its former splendor,” Atty. Esponilla stressed.

UPA said there are other explanation for floodings such as urban planning defects and environmental degradation as a result of illegal logging and quarrying activities in the mountains around Metro Manila. The group also said that the urban poor dwellers along esteros, waterways and other so-called danger areas not as a “matter of choice” but because they must in order to survive.

“As such, we believe in the effort to clean up Manila Bay, a comprehensive and decent relocation program and immediate economic relief must come with the initiative,” Atty. Esponilla said.

Atty. Esponilla also said the public must not be made to choose between the interest of the environment and the rights and welfare of the poor.

“They are not mutually exclusive of one another. Both are important. Surely, the rehabilitation of Manila Bay without resolving the urban poor question would be another tragedy. We would get rid off the pollution at the expense of the people. As such, we urge the government to convene the advisory committee to prevent or avert any violation of laws particularly the shelter rights of the poor living in the surrounding area of Manila Bay,” Atty. Esponilla concluded.

Other movants of the said motion include Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco (KABALIKAT), Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig (ULAP) and residents along Radial 10 (R-10) Boulevard in Tondo, Manila. -30-

Monday, October 05, 2009

World Habitat Day

Let's stand up on World Habitat Day and let it be known that affordable, adequate housing should be a priority everywhere—in our communities, in our towns, in our country, in our world.

News Facts

The United Nations has designated the first Monday each October as
World Habitat Day.

This year on Oct. 5 in Washington, D.C. and around the world, please join Habitat for Humanity in support of this global observance as we come together and declare that the lack of decent, affordable housing is unacceptable.

According to the United Nations, more than 100 million people in the world today are homeless. Millions more face a severe housing problem living without adequate sanitation, with irregular or no electricity supply and without adequate security.

Worldwide, more than 2 million housing units per year are needed for the next 50 years to solve the present worldwide housing crisis. With our global population expanding, however, at the end of those 50 years, there would still be a need for another 1 billion houses. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)

Raising awareness and advocating for change are the first steps toward transforming systems that perpetuate the global plague of poverty housing. World Habitat Day serves as an important reminder that everyone must unite to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent place to call home.

The U.N. further states that both developed and developing countries, cities and towns are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, population growth and economic instability.

Rapid rates of urbanization cause serious negative consequences - overcrowding, poverty, slums with many poorly equipped to meet the service demands of ever growing urban populations.

With over half of the world’s population currently living in urban areas the U.N. believes there is no doubt that the "urban agenda" will increasingly become a priority for governments, local authorities and their non-governmental partners everywhere.

U.S. Housing Facts

* About 95 million people, one third of the nation, have housing problems including a high-cost burden, overcrowding, poor quality shelter and homelessness. (National Low Income Housing Coalition: 2004)

* One in three American households spend more than 30 percent of income on housing, and one in seven spends more than 50 percent. (Joint Center for Housing Studies: 2006)

* The number of low-income families that lack safe and affordable housing is related to the number of children that suffer from asthma, viral infections, anemia, stunted growth and other health problems. About 21,000 children have stunted growth attributable to the lack of stable housing; 10,000 children between the ages of 4 and 9 are hospitalized for asthma attacks each year because of cockroach infestation at home; and more than 180 children die each year in house fires attributable to faulty electrical heating and electrical equipment. (Sandel, et al: 1999)

Global poverty facts

* By the year 2030, an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 96,150 new affordable units every day and 4,000 every hour. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)

* One out of every three city dwellers – nearly a billion people – lives in a slum. (Slum indicators include: lack of water, lack of sanitation, overcrowding, non-durable structures and insecure tenure.) (UN-HABITAT: 2006)

* UN-Habitat has reported that because of poor living conditions, women living in slums are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than their rural counterparts, and children in slums are more likely to die from water-borne and respiratory illness. (UN-HABITAT: 2006)

* Housing formation generates non-housing related expenditures that help drive the economy. (Kissick, et al: 2006)

* Investing in housing expands the local tax base. (Kissick, et al: 2006)

The theme for World Habitat Day 2009 is "Planning our Urban Future"
Celebrations of World Habitat Day in Washington, D.C. will be an excellent opportunity to foster global discussion and raise the profile of shelter and urban issues at the national and international level. Events in the United States and around the world include policy forums, award presentations, luncheons, dinners, house-building and exhibitions.

Visit the Habitat for Humanity Web site