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

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