Friday, July 31, 2009
** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **
Demolition of Mosque to Spark Bloodshed
31 July 2009. “Blood will flow if the government will pursue the demolition of the mosque. Hundreds of Muslim men and women living outside the mosque will fight the demolition team. They are not afraid to die to preserve the sacred mosque.”
These are the words of Abdelmanan Tanandato. He is the leader of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Nademolis sa Roxas Boulevard. Their mosque and community are on the reclaimed land in Pasay City opposite Baclaran Church.
According to Tanandato, the mosque on the reclaimed land in Manila Bay is the third biggest mosque in Metro Manila. He remembers that the land for the mosque was part of the sea. It took them three years in landfilling/ reclaiming to produce the 3 hectares to build the mosque. He is sad that the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) is now claiming the land and that the court allows PRA to have full possession of the lot for commerce, luxury housing and casinos.
On 26th of May 2009, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita issued a memorandum, saying that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo instructs government agencies to relocate the mosque.
Issuance of the memorandum alarms the community because they know there will be attempts to demolish the mosque and evict them forcefully. Earlier in 2007, PRA violently demolished their dwellings rendering the elderly, women, and children homeless. In June 2008, another government demolition team came but hundreds of Muslims faced them armed with wooden clubs ready to fight the demolition team to protect their homes and mosque. The demolition was not executed.
Tanandato was informed that there will be demolition the first week of August.
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 Foundation (COPE) is now helping the community to prevent the violent demolition.
“If the government proceeds with the demolition and eviction, the people will resist—violently most likely. Some may be killed. The mosque will be destroyed-- a sight that has a good chance of appearing in every newspaper in the world,” said Denis Murphy, Executive Director of the UPA. He added that, “the people will also write President Barack Obama if the government persists to execute the demolition of the mosque.”
Atty. Bienvenido Salinas II, legal counsel of UPA and Cong. Leandro Q. Montemayor are drafting a letter of inquiry addressed to Andrea Domingo, General Manager of PRA. In the letter, they reiterate the request to defer the demolition of the Muslim community and defer the plan to relocate the sacred mosque, especially in the light of the pending cases and demolition moratorium ordinance in Pasay City.
Meanwhile, Tanandato is seeking the help of Commission on Human Rights, Congressmen, Senators and the Church to secure and arrive at peaceful and amicable solution to the problem.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
A Prophet for the Philippines
by Denis Murphy
[This story hasn't happened yet, although we tell it in the past tense. It may happen any day now, so look out. Forewarned is forearmed. You will hear thunder rumbling.]
The old archbishop walked up and down beside his cathedral as he did every night after dinner. He said his rosary as he walked and was so deep in thought a person would have to bump into him before the archbishop would notice.
An even older man suddenly appeared beside him, seemingly out of nowhere. The man was dressed in the white suit, brown and white shoes and panama hat that gentlemen wore in the 1940s.
"You look terrible, excellency," the man said.
The archbishop knew him. "It could be worse, my friend."
"Is it the poor again?"
"My people just don't care about them."
"We know and we are going to give them one final chance. Remember that favor you kept asking us for?"
"We had a hard time finding him, but now we have him. We've chosen you."
"Me? I'm no prophet."
"That's what they always said, isn't it? Don't argue. You are God's prophet for this stiff-necked Filipino people. You are their Amos, Jeremiah, John the Baptist. It's decided."
"Wait a minute. What do I say to them?"
"It's up to you. We don't have any idea. Nothing seems to work with your people, especially those well-off people of yours. Good luck, excellency. You'll need it." The man disappeared in a single whoosh of air.
The archbishop-prophet wondered how he would approach his people. They like statistics and theory. They like serious discussions, but after such talk nothing happens. He was fond of quoting United Nations figures that claimed over 300 Filipino children died each day of malnutrition-related diseases. The children simply didn't have enough food. His audience shook their heads in horror when they heard his sad tale, but when they left the church all was forgotten. Calm, informed discussion wouldn't do it.
He thought for some more time and then decided: if I am a prophet, I'll act like one. A few days later, dressed in ragged pants, rubber slippers and a faded T-shirt advertising soap powder, with his face and arms smeared with dirt, he pushed a kariton to the middle of a bridge over an estero. People living under the bridge had been evicted. When word got around that the scavenger was the archbishop, the crowds gathered.
"The Lord God Almighty says: ‘Once upon a time 57 families lived in darkness under this bridge. Now it's empty. Where have you put my children? Where are my children? Where are the old people? Where is the old blind woman who lived here?' The Lord God says to you: ‘Because you drove them out and threw them in the streets like garbage, and left them homeless in the rain, I will punish this city. Shame on those who ordered the demolition. Shame on all of you who stood by and did nothing. Shame on you police who could have stopped it. Shame, too, on my priests who failed to struggle to stop it.'"
The Archbishop finished and as he pushed his kariton away from the bridge the crowd fell back to let him pass. "Thank you, excellency," an older woman said, but most everyone else was silent. Few looked the archbishop in the eye as he passed. Instead, they worried about him.
The headline in the leading newspaper the next morning was guarded: "Archbishop's Bridge Talk Puzzles Listeners." People calling in to the radio stations worried about the "appropriateness" of the action, or felt his dress and the kariton were "troubling". They noted the archbishop had completely departed from his usual low key manner of speaking. "He sounds so hostile now," a listener to Radio Veritas's Caritas at Maralita said. "I don't think I like him this way."
The archbishop understood the reaction was bad. It didn't do any good to threaten his people.
He was a prophet till he died, so he couldn't stop. He would try another approach, and so on TV the following Sunday night he wore a simple gray clerical shirt with a small wooden cross hanging around his neck. He asked the camera to zoom in close. He wanted to speak in the soft tones he used when talking to his priests who had problems or to old people close to death. It was indeed a soft tone, but thunder rumbled in the background of his words. The close-up would also, though the archbishop didn't realize it, show the kindness and sadness in his eyes.
He talked about two little squatter boys he had passed near a hospital. They were 4 or 5 years old and were sitting on a rubber mat eating cheese curls. Not far away were the kariton where their families lived. When it rained the families pulled blue plastic sheets over themselves and their kariton and settled down low like carabaos in the rain. "The boys talked and shared the bag of cheese curls, passing it back and forth. I waved to them and they waved back. I felt so sad. What will happen to the boys? Will their lives be full of pain and frustration? Then I realized, those two boys were there by the road because God intended us to see them. God is saying to us, ‘you are responsible for them'. Yes, we are also responsible for the mothers nearby building their small wood fires to cook rice, and for all the weak and poor of our city. As God gives these children to us, He also gives Himself. If we refuse them, we refuse Him.
He stopped there and stared into the camera. He prayed his people would take this last chance that God was giving them to amend their ways. He was afraid to think of what would happen otherwise. He heard thunder rumbling.
Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **
Urban Poor Group Seek Help of Catholic Bishops
30 July 2009. Various urban poor groups in Metro Manila have asked the help of Catholic Bishops to arrange a meeting with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to discuss the Executive Order 803 creating and directing the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee (MMIAC) to plan, coordinate and implement a comprehensive shelter program for informal settlers.
In a letter to President Arroyo, through Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao and Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, the Task Force Anti-Eviction told the president that her advisors have given her bad advice in the matter of MMIAC, especially in making Bayani Fernando and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) the chair of that body.
“For years Bayani Fernando has been perceived as the number one oppressor of the poor. He has evicted thousands of the poorest families (those living under bridges and along esteros, for example), and left them without relocation, literally homeless in the streets, against our own and international law. He has destroyed the goods of poor vendors. Now he is promoted to head the MMIAC which puts him in charge of all aspects of social housing, including evictions, relocation, upgrading and construction. His control over the poor is greatly increased. Poor people say they are deeply offended by this promotion given their oppressor,” the letter read.
“Remove him, Mrs. President. There are many other more capable and humane men and women who can head the MMIAC. Bishops, the Commission on Human Rights, dozens of NGOs, civil society groups and thousands of urban poor people had asked that you not appoint him,” urban poor leaders said.
“The act of promoting Bayani Fernando will greatly increase his control over the poor. We request the president to remove him as the chair of MMIAC. Instead replace him with capable and humane men or women who can head the MMIAC,” said Ted Añana, Deputy Coordinator of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).
If this is not possible for any number of reasons, people’s organizations and NGOs such as Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation, and UPA, want Chairman Fernando to pledge in public way that he is committed to provide relocation for all evicted families and to seek genuine consultation with the poor.
“We ask that you advise Chairman Fernando to seek genuine consultation with the poor and NGOs, allow people’s participation, and learn from the best experiences of other countries. We ask that this consultation begin with the makeup of the MMIAC. The poor wish there be representatives of the poor and the NGOs,” the letter added.
Urban poor leaders also reminded the president that during their meeting August 1 last year, she gave directives to government agencies so that the 1,400 families from the 11 priority areas evicted by MMDA and now living in the streets be relocated to Montalban at the cost of P300 million.
TASK FORCE ANTI-EVICTION
c/o URBAN POOR ASSOCIATES
25A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Quezon City
Tels (632) 426 4119/ 7615 Telefax (632) 426 4118
July 10, 2009
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President, Republic of the Philippines
Office of the President
Through the kindness of:
Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan and Bishop Ramon Villena
Dear Mrs. President,
Warm greetings from all the urban poor.
We must tell you in all respect that your urban advisors have given you bad advice in the matter of the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee, especially in making Bayani Fernando and the Metro Manila Development Authority the chair of that body (E.O. 803).
For years he has been perceived as the number one oppressor of the poor. He has evicted thousands of the poorest families (those living under bridges and along esteros, for example), and left them without relocation, literally homeless in the streets, against our own and international law. He has destroyed the goods of poor vendors. Now he is promoted to head the MMIAC which puts him in charge of all aspects of social housing, including evictions, relocation, upgrading and construction. His control over the poor is greatly increased. Poor people say they are deeply offended by this promotion given their oppressor.
Remove him, Mrs. President. There are many other more capable and humane men and women who can head the MMIAC. Bishops, the Commission on Human Rights, dozens of NGOs, civil society groups and thousands of urban poor people had asked that you not appoint him.
If it is not possible to do this for any number of reasons, we ask that you require Chairman Fernando, to pledge in a public way that he is committed to providing relocation for all evicted families. The law binding in these matters is well expressed in the Resolution of the CHR recommending a moratorium on evictions and demolitions (CHR (IV) No. A2008-052).
We ask that you order the creation of “The Independent Body, legally responsible for preventing illegal forced evictions” that was recommended to the Philippine Government by the United Nations Human Rights Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1995. This new body can be located in the CHR.
All other attempts to prevent illegal forced evictions have failed.
We ask that you advise Chairman Fernando to seek genuine consultation with the poor and NGOs, allow people’s participation, and learn from the best experiences of other countries. We ask that this consultation begin with the makeup of the MMIAC. The poor wish there be representatives of the poor and the NGOs.
Can you take action so that the 1,400 families from the 11 priority areas evicted and now living in the streets be relocated to Montalban at the cost of P300 million? You ordered that this be done last year.
We make these requests because the future of our children depends on your decision.
We ask that you please meet with our group to discuss these matters which are very important for us as soon as possible.
We thank you for all the time you have given us. You have had more meetings with the poor than any other president.
Bacood Ilaya Looban Homeowners Association
Samahang Nayon ng Balintawak, Inc.
PRESCILDA P. JUANICH
ROLANDO L. SERNA
Market-3 Fishport of Navotas Neighborhood Association
YOLANDA R. OFAGA
Samahang ng mga Residente ng R-10, Navotas
IDA J. CABAZARES
United Group for Progress
Ugnayang Lakas ng Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog-Pasig (ULAP
Samahang Magkakapitbahay ng Estero dela Reina (SMER)
Pasay Estero Informal Settlers Alliance
Friday, July 24, 2009
This document is publicly viewable at: http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=dhhqg4t6_186d2pm2qfw
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan (Public Service Award) 2009
When as a young Jesuit, Denis Murphy returned to the Philippines in 1967 fresh from his Masters in Social Work studies at Fordham University, New York, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J., then Provincial, assigned him to work with Fr. Gaston Duchesneau, S.J. at the Institute of Social Order. Fr. Murphy, S.J. was to help develop a strong Jesuit apostolate dedicated to the needs and aspirations of the urban poor. Given the leeway to explore possible locations for this work toward social justice over the next few months, and actively studying Tagalog, he settled on Tondo as the most complex, interesting and challenging of city neighborhoods.
Today Denis Murphy is solidly recognized in civil society circles as “the Father of Community Organizing in the Philippines”. Thousands of community organizers have been trained in “CO” and its many derivatives since the 1970s.
Currently the Executive Director of Urban Poor Associates, which he founded in 1992, he has enabled communities to resist and negotiate poor people’s rights to secure land tenure over the last 44 years. Some 50,000 Filipino families directly owe their access to land tenure to his creativity, dedication and facilitating leadership. Through effective community organizing, poor groups have learned to confront the inequities of urban land distribution, interact as equals with government officials, and utilize both pressure as well as bargaining tactics to become upstanding citizens of this nation.
Denis Murphy helped organized the Philippine Ecumenical Council on Community Organization (PECCO) in the mid-1960s, serving as a representative of the Catholic membership in collaboration with Protestant church representatives. Such an interdenominational alliance was unheard of before then. In the early 1970s he recruited the Catholic board members from academia, media, and the Church as well CO trainees for this new work, selected the Tondo Foreshore as the initial organizing area, and spent many hours “doing legwork” to convinced disheartened residents as well as some “know it all” authoritarian local leaders that democratic organizing could indeed lead to a better life for all.
The resulting Zone One Tondo Organization, which still thrives today, is living proof that informed, determined, and active poor people can, as organized groups, transform social power discrepancies and demand benefits not voluntarily allocated to them by the larger society. The results emerged in ZOTO’s victories around secure land tenure on the Tondo Foreshore and Dagat-dagatan, Navotas in the 1970s, the residents’ subsequent access to improved basic services, infrastructure improvements, and housing, and their ability to sustain these accomplishments and confront new challenges over time.
Denis Murphy’s vision and enabling leadership continues to move and shape Philippine society in the 21st century, giving empowered people a voice in their own destiny. As a result more enlightened government processes have emerged in the course of this “demand from below”. Today many housing officials in government are strong advocates for people’s participation in human settlements planning, having discovered that negotiating with organized poor groups who can articulate their perspectives and recommend workable solutions, makes their own work easier and more effective.
Soon after ZOTO was organized, “CO” spread to many other cities in the Philippines. So notable were these early developments that other Asian groups working with their own urban poor readily responded in 1971 to Denis Murphy’s advocacy for an ecumenical network, the Asian Committee for People’s Organization, each with its own national set of equivalent NGOs and POs. Remaining at the forefront of civil society initiatives in support of the urban poor in Asia, ACPO recognizes Denis Murphy as consistently having organized the Catholic Church’s participation in the work.
In 1976, he left the Jesuit order but continued his commitment to community organizing. His subsequent marriage to community organizer Alice Gentolia-Murphy created the well-known and formidable “dynamic duo” that has brought significant breakthroughs for people empowerment. He credits the Society of Jesus for protecting him when the Marcos Administration not only refused him permission to work with the Office of Human Development, Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (OHD/FABC), but threatened to deport him as well.
Safely back at the OHD/FABC a few weeks later, the bishops again asked him to concentrate on the cities and their growing numbers of urban poor informal settlers, disempowered and living in inhumanly degraded environments. This effort would include organizing the Bishops Institute for Social Action, with a major program that brought hundreds of bishops from Asia and other continents to the Philippines. The bishops met as a group to discuss what they had experienced and discerned in the light of the Gospel and the Social Teachings of the Church.
This commitment to involving the Church directly in dialogues with the poor, thereby making the Gospel resonate in the everyday lives of marginalized groups, continues to be a part of Mr. Murphy’s mission now. He insists that the Church is the most reliable ally of the urban poor in their struggles for a better life, and that it is part of his role to help people make their faith a motivational force in community organizing.
As for his Jesuit brothers, some of whom remain his best friends, he believes that “A person can best appreciate the Jesuits if he knows them from within and from without. One point of view without the other is inadequate.”
Denis Murphy is also a prolific writer who expertly combines his social and humanities proclivities. Some 30 articles and poems of his have been published in America, the Society’s official magazine in the United States. His four volumes of short stories and his novel, A Watch in the Night, have been widely read. Although exercises in fiction, they are usually based on the real social issues he has confronted all his life. But perhaps he is best known among today’s reading public for his insightful articles in the Philippine Daily Inquirer as well as the now-defunct Manila Chronicle.
For his dedication to community organizing as a vital social force toward social justice in Asia;
For enabling thousands of urban poor families to achieve dignity by having a voice in their own secure future, for training and inspiring hundreds of young community organizers to be “men and women for urban poor others,” for assisting the Catholic Church to carry out its preferential option for the poor in the Philippines and Asia and to do so in ecumenical partnerships;
And for his contributions to social commentary and fiction rooted in social issues, the Ateneo de Manila University, in this year’s sesquicentennial anniversary of its foundation, is proud to confer the Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan on Denis Murphy.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
On July 14, 2009, as part of the Ateneo de Manila’s sesquicentennial celebration, two honorary degrees and eight university awards were conferred on distinguished individuals at the Special Academic Convocation.
The ceremony was held at 3:30 p.m. at the Rev. Henry Lee Irwin Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights campus.
One of the awardees for this year is Denis Murphy.
The award is in recognition of his commitment to the cause of the urban poor and advocacy for social transformation in his various capacities as a community organizer at the Institute of Social Order in the '60s, Philippine Ecumenical Committee for Community Organization in the '70s, Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences between the '70s and '80s, and the Urban Poor Associates since 1991.
The Award gives recognition to outstanding public service of an individual (Benigno S. Aquino Jr. in 1984) or a group of individuals (Radio Veritas in 1983).
Read related article on the 2009 Special Academic Convocation here.