Sunday, December 19, 2010

Urban poor follow in Holy Family’s footsteps

Carrying banners, Christmas lanterns and giant puppets, some 3,000 slum dwellers marched in the streets of Manila to reenact the travails of Joseph and Mary in search for lodging in Bethlehem.

The poor people walked from Palanca Street in Manila to Mendiola Bridge, a few meters from the gates of the presidential palace, to dramatize their own search for a decent shelter.

Maria Nita Belotindos, a 39-year-old mother of three who played Mary, said what they want is to call the attention of President Benigno Aquino III to their plight.

© Full report at

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Catholics put robots through their paces

Filipino Catholic youths joined over 600 young scientists from about 20 countries for this year’s World Robot Olympiad, an annual competition to showcase robotic systems.

“It is really hard but we really don’t mind because we wanted to prove that we can do it, said Alexandra Guevarra from the province of Bulacan, north of Manila.

Guevarra and her team grabbed the top prize in the junior high school open category of the competition.

© Full report at

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thousands rejoice over new Spanish saint

Thousands of Filipinos have turned out to celebrate the canonization of Spanish Saint Candida Maria de Jesus, who founded the Daughters of Jesus.

“The Church is thankful for the fruits of her holiness, including the youths who were educated in schools founded by her congregation,” Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila said at a Manila celebration on Oct. 18.

Saint Candida was one of six people canonized by Pope Benedict XVI a day earlier. They included Stanislaw Soltys Kazimierczyk, Andre (Alfred) Bessette, Mary Helen MacKillop, Giulia Salzano and Battista (Camilla) Varano.

© Full report at

Friday, October 15, 2010

People, institutions honored for promoting Christian values

Several individuals, schools and media institutions were recognized by an award-giving body for promoting Christian values.

“I really thank God and Mama Mary. It’s an honor to have this award,” said Fatima Soriano, a blind 17-year-old who bagged the Best Inspirational Song award for Awit ng Puso (Song of the Heart) at the 2010 Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA).

Jesuit newpaper columnist Father Joaquin Bernas was granted the Serviam Award at the awards ceremony held on Oct. 13 at the Medicine Auditorium of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

© Full report at

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Church ‘must stop taking tainted cash’

The Philippine Church must stop benefiting from the very corruption that it seeks to eradicate, says a social activist priest.

“There are some Church institutions that are receiving [money] from government institutions like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagor), the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) etc.,” said Father Jose Dizon.

The priest, a member of Solidarity Philippines which promotes Church social teachings, made these comments amid controversy over huge bonuses and perks that officials of government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) allegedly gave themselves.

The Philippine Senate is currently conducting an investigation into the matter.

© Full report at

Limits on pension rights for elderly draw flak

The Philippine government’s deferment of the full implementation of a law that provides pensions to the elderly is biased against the poor, says a senior citizen’s organization.

The government had announced it could only release 871 million pesos (US$19.64 million) next year. This is a fraction of the 7 billion required annual funding for a 500-peso elderly monthly pension as provided by law.

Only those 80 years old and above now qualify for the pension in 2011 or about 145,150 senior citizens, as opposed to the estimated 4.1 million elderly who are 60 years and older and who should be receiving the pension.

“I’m quite disappointed,” said Ed Gerlock of the NGO Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE). He said most of the elderly are below 80 years old.

© Full report at

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Filipinos snub Caritas flood aid appeal

A week after appealing for aid for Pakistan flood victims, Caritas Filipinas is yet to receive donations from Philippine dioceses, says a Caritas official.

“We need to strategize how to drum up appeal,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the bishop’s conference’s social action secretariat that administers Caritas Filipinas.

Filipinos seem unaware of what is going on in Pakistan, he said. “There’s not much media exposure.”

© Full report at

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New-style urban poor need Church help

A NEW type of homeless street people has emerged in Metro Manila as urban poor communities are demolished and jobs hard to find, a visiting Japanese social scientist and researcher said.

This is a new phenomenon, the result of globalization and a crisis of capitalism, Hideo Aoki, director of Institute on Social Theory and Dynamics based in Hiroshima City, Japan, told Sunday.

He estimates that there are “more than 100,000” homeless people living in and around Metro Manila.

© Full report at

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gay clergy urged to ‘heal’ themselves

Catholic leaders must address the issue of homosexuality and the “healing process” must start with the “gay bishops and priests,” a leader of a Catholic homosexuals group said.

Rolando de los Reyes Jr., head of Courage Philippines told a recent gathering of some 30 guidance counsellors and teachers from various Catholic schools in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, that the Church has been consistently bold and daring in opposing abortion, sex education in public schools and use of contraception but not homosexuality.

“Why? Because even in the Church we have problems of homosexuality,” de los Reyes said.

© Full report at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Manila parish refuses to fight demolitions

A PASTORAL council in Metro Manila has dismissed accusations that it is not concerned about government attempts to demolish parishioners’ homes in Santolan, Pasig City.

The accusations came after picketing residents successfully blocked a 100-strong demolition team on Aug. 9. They pointed out that no Church officials were seen among them on the picket lines.

However, Denis Teodoro, president of Santo Tomas de Villanueva parish council, countered that “our parish priest does go to the area. We discuss the problem at our meetings. It’s not true the parish doesn’t care, but we want to find the right solution to a problem that has many angles to it.”

The government wants to demolish around 15,000 homes because they are along the Marikina River and Manggahan floodway and are badly affected by occurrences like last September’s Typhoon Ketsana.

© Full report at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Economists to unveil study on overseas workers

TWO economists studying the impact of overseas employment on Filipino families say they may release their findings by September after receiving further feedback.

Michael Clemens of the US-based non-profit Center for Global Development (CGD) and Asian Institute of Management (AIM) professor Erwin Tiongson presented their preliminary findings to some 20 migration experts, teachers and students on Aug. 6.

The two men had conducted a survey of 899 Filipino overseas workers in Korea and more than 4,000 of their household members all over the Philippines.

The preliminary results covered matters such as remittances, income, school enrollment of workers’ children, migration by other family members, and housing and domestic help.

© Full report at

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Cory taught Filipinos to be ’socially engaged’

CORAZON “Cory” Aquino showed Catholics the need to be socially engaged, a bishop told a memorial service marking the first anniversary of the death of the late president.

Aquino showed that “as Catholics we should be socially engaged, that piety is not just prayer, but is for social transformation,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan told after an anniversary Mass on Aug. 1.

Some 2,000 government officials, community and business leaders joined the Aquino family and friends at the St. Benilde gymnasium of La Salle Green Hills for the Mass commemorating Aquino’s death after a battle with colon cancer.

“Like a whirlwind, the wake and the funeral of President Cory awakened in us a new spirit of nationalism, a resurrection of lost pride as Filipinos,” Villegas said in his homily.

© Full report at

Autistic artist shares his ‘blessings’

ARTIST Jose Antonio Tan who grew up with autism plans to donate part of the proceeds of his painting exhibition to a local autism center as a way of “sharing” his blessings.

The 24-year-old artist and his family are donating 150,000 pesos (US$3,300) to the Autism Resource Center of Los Banos in Laguna province near Manila.

The center was founded by a parents’ group to help young adult and adolescent autism sufferers develop their skills.

The artist also “would like to make a difference to the world of autism even in a small way,” said Jose Antonio’s mother Zelie Tan.

© Full report at

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Malacañang and esteros

Commentary : Malacañang and esteros

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: July 28, 2010

RECENTLY WITHIN a span of one week, I visited two places that are within walking distance of each other, but look so completely different you wouldn’t think they belong to the same city: Estero de San Miguel and Malacañang.

We had a host in each area: Aling Imelda Ramos, 72, on the estero and President Aquino himself in Malacañang. We were fortunate to spend a good bit of time with each of these persons. At the end, we felt that the places may be very different, but there is the same Filipino sensibility in both, especially the ability to see the serious side of reality, but also the amusing side, which is surely a great virtue for a poor woman or a president to have.

Along one of the dark and narrow alley ways of Estero de San Miguel we met Aling Imelda. She was seated on her bangkito washing clothes, but she stood up to talk to us. It was a dismal place. She could see we were reacting to the smells of urine and worse, so she said, “We don’t smell it anymore. We’re used to it.” Back along the alleyway we had seen human waste pouring from pipes that extended out over the water from buildings across the way. At one point there was an explosion like a bomb going off. We ducked but it wasn’t a bomb. It was a large plastic bag of garbage dropped into the estero from the fourth story of another building. There were other “explosions” as we talked to Aling Imelda.

She is now in her 70s and has lived there since the time of President Elpidio Quirino. There are between 500 and 600 families living in her section of the estero. She says they are happy because they are long-time residents who know each other and trust each other. “We take care of each other. Most of us are vendors, so we are close to our working areas.”

The government is threatening to remove them from the estero, because it is judged to be a “danger” area, she said, though in the 50 years or more she has lived there nothing bad has happened to them. Even “Ondoy” didn’t hurt them. “It came up to my waist but no one was hurt,” she said. She added, “We don’t want anything from government. We wish they would leave us alone.”

The government talks of esteros and the estimated 80,000 families living on them as if they were all the same and as if one solution could suit all. Esteros differ from one another as much as people do. Not all people on esteros have to be relocated. Some can be accommodated along the banks, allowing for proper easement. Some have to move out. Some can live on idle land nearby. In some esteros people may very well block the water. In others they probably don’t. The government should study each estero carefully. God and the devil are in the details.

Rats peered out at us from cracks in the flooring of the alley. Maybe they wanted to know what was going on.

Replacing the warmth, friendship, security and mutual aid practices of such communities as Aling Imelda’s is very, very difficult for government to do in the best of circumstances. How can it do that for 80,000 families who don’t want to move?

Patiently Aling Imelda answered all our questions, though the soap bubbles in her washbasin had disappeared and her once clean looking clothes were lying there like dead fish. It was simple courtesy that kept her there talking to us.

A few days later my wife, myself, some urban poor people and NGOs were invited to meet President Noynoy in Malacañang. My wife had complained to friends in the Cabinet that the President and his advisers had completely neglected the urban poor once the election was finished. When the President heard of that complaint, he called for the meeting.

We met in a truly beautiful room. It is used for meetings, but it had the comfortable lived-in air of a family sala. President Cory Aquino had held office there. There were flowers, rare white orchids and oil paintings, one of which showed the moon and a pine forest at night in a blue mist. Everything was restful. We waited for the President at a table for 20 people.

There was a rustle of activity and a powerful looking bodyguard came into the room and gave us a quick look-over. There was no sign of what he thought of us. Then the president came in, talking even as he came near, drowning out the voice of the female assistant who called out, “The President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

We spent over an hour with the President. He could have handled our complaints in 10 or 15 minutes if he wanted. We presented some good and some not-so-good ideas. He listened to them all and talked about them. He explained why he had made certain appointments. He reminisced about concerns that had recently been brought to his attention, that most Philippine provinces, for example, are at high risk of very damaging disasters, and no province is not at risk. He talked about Pagasa’s failure to predict the path of “Basyang” and how he’ll have to attract investments to get better facilities.

Our group appreciated the way he put everyone at ease. He talked about his problems and listened to his visitors’ problems. He laughed a lot. He is not in a hurry. He had time to inquire into the details of some problems presented.

As I was listening to him talk I was reminded of Aling Imelda on Estero de San Miguel.

“Who do we go to when we have problems?” our group asked.

“Come to me,” he said. An agreement was made that he would meet once a month with the urban poor.

The places are totally different—the estero and Malacañang—but the people living in the two places are very much alike, which promises well for the long-range progress of the country, it seemed to us.

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

©Copyright 2001-2010, An Inquirer Company

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Plan proposes means to stop human trafficking

Lawmakers and civil society groups have agreed on proposals to change laws and intensify action on human trafficking from the Philippines.

The proposals came at a July 22 dialogue on human trafficking between civil society and leaders in government held in Manila.

Officials, legislators and civic leaders, including members of Laura Vicuna Foundation of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, and the Center for Overseas Workers of the Religious of the Good Shepherd listened to survivors of human trafficking operations, and the lawyer who prosecuted the first human trafficking case tried in the country.

In 2005, Darlene Pajarito, Assistant City Prosecutor of Zamboanga City, successfully prosecuted three members of a syndicate who were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of 2 million pesos (US$43,000) for trafficking.

Pajarito moved for the inclusion of a legal “rape shield” as one of the amendments of the law to protect complainants. Currently, the anti-trafficking law allows defense lawyers to cross-examine complainants on their alleged “loose morals.

© Full report at

Be the solution, priest tells students

Former Pampanga governor Father Eduardo “Among Ed” Panlilio told University of the Philippines students in Quezon City that miracles can happen in politics.

In an address on prospects for changing Philippine politics and society, Panlilio said that reforms he introduced in Pampanga showed that it is “possible to have transparency, accountability, people participation, respect for ecology, humility and dignity in public service.”

He urged students to “be hopeful” and to “be a solution to the problem.”

He added that he now hopes to resume his priestly ministry following his failed bid for re-election.

© Full report at

Monday, May 17, 2010

Floodway and Salubong

When you walk along the Manggahan Floodway these days, as we did last week, past kilometer after kilometer of bulldozed houses and rubble, you may think you are in East Jerusalem or Afghanistan. The dismal scene is not the work of the Jewish military or the Taliban, however, but that of the Philippine government evicting 60,000 poor families.

This eviction in Pasig is part of the post-Ondoy rehabilitation work, government claims, but residents say they were scarcely affected by Ondoy: no one died and the houses survived. They admit there is a need to improve the area’s abilities to resist natural disasters, but they say there is no need to remove the families. The people believe the real operative plan of government is to remove the poor and replace them with up-scale housing, commercial establishments, and to enrich those who make all that possible.

The plan to replace them was conceived long before Ondoy, the people told us. They were working then with Atty. Bienvenido Salinas of the Urban Poor Associates’ St. Thomas More Law Center to bring a case to court to stop that plan when the floods came. It’s the same plan of government, but now it is driven by the national government agencies. Before Pasig City was the driving force.

The number of families threatened in recent months by the Supreme Court decision on Manila Bay and the eviction orders of national agencies, reaches as high as 400,000 families, according to estimates based on government news reports,

The alarming dimension of all this violence is not just the sheer size, but the fact that government agencies charged with protecting the people and the institutions of civil society haven’t protested dramatically against the unusually large number of violations of law and human rights. An older Filipino told me, as we walked along the Floodway, that we were nearing the end of the democratic road since there was only silence and not a roar of protest over so many poor families shipped to far off resettlement sites where there is little work or no work for them.

On Easter Sunday, the Salubong of Jesus and the Virgin Mary was held on the Floodway at the Legazpi Bridge that spans the water. Jesus and Mary, played by giant puppets, approached each other in two bancas as thousands of people watched. At the bridge they met and a child angel removed Mary’s black veil. The white robes shone in the afternoon sun. Then side by side the bancas came to the shore where crowds of people surged to the water’s edge to meet them. The puppets were carried ashore while little girls in white sang hymns. A prayer service followed.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if the risen Jesus and Mary could come to the threatened urban poor communities and strengthen them in their struggle for a decent place to raise their children?

Jesus and Mary do come, of course, in the form of young community organizers and priests, sisters, medical workers and people of all professions and backgrounds, including the people’s own leaders, who help the poor help themselves, and help them grow in dignity and confidence. A society that stands quietly by and allows massive evictions to take place will face a harsh judgment from the Lord on Judgment Day, according to Matthew’s Gospel 25: 31-46).

As the prayer service ended, airplanes flew over in silence, as if they respected the people’s sorrow, but were admitting they couldn’t do anything to help. However, when the planes were high up, there was a powerful roar of the engines. Was that an omen that our society will no longer tolerate the eviction of thousands upon thousands of innocent children? Will the future be different?

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The zoo needs you

Commentary : The zoo needs you

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: March 18, 2010

CHANCES ARE CHILDREN WHO SPEND AN AFternoon at the Manila Zoo will come home very disappointed. The animals they see there are not those they have seen on TV. The TV tigers, lions, rhinos, hippos, leopards and gorillas roared, threatened and frightened them. The animals in the Manila Zoo, with a few exceptions, sleep, huddle in corners or look at people accusingly as if to say, “Look at what you’ve done to us.” They don’t awe, amuse or frighten anyone.

If we are not careful to improve our zoos, we may raise a generation of young people who know only malls and have no interest in the beauty and mystery of animals and nature. What concern for the environment can we expect in a country if this interest is missing? The battle between the mall and the zoo for the soul of children may be the major struggle of the century.

It’s a sad experience to walk past the big-cat enclosures in the zoo. A number are empty as if the last representative of that specie has passed away. There is no lion, for example. In other enclosures it’s almost impossible to find the animal. We finally found the tiger lying or hiding motionless in a rundown lean-to that looked like the tiger had built it himself. We couldn’t make out his color or even where his head was. What child will be inspired by that sight?

Even the monkeys lie down on the job. They don’t run around and climb over things and tease one another as monkeys, especially young monkeys, usually do. There’s no one laughing at them. Did you ever imagine monkeys that weren’t funny?

The crocodiles lie covered with dirt on bare concrete, instead of sweeping back and forth menacingly in the water.

It’s sad to see that there is only one representative for some species. There is one zebra, all alone, far from Africa. There is one poor hippo, all alone, so sad she doesn’t worry about her weight anymore. And there’s a female elephant who lives just inside the main entrance. Every once in a while she appears from within the ruins where she lives, and walks around her enclosure hoping, it seems, that things have changed, that the bad times are over. Halfway through her walk she realizes that nothing has changed, and she hurries away.

Water would make a big difference. It’s sad to see the animals in dirty cages. Manila has just had its worst floods in 40 years; there must be water nearby. If the cages and animals were cleaned with water, and there were pools in the enclosures where the animals could relax from the heat, and water was regularly sprayed on the pathways and gardens, the zoo would seem altogether different.

We are punishing the animals and I suspect the children know that. The bad condition affects the way the animals act. The ostriches, for example, race back and forth in their small enclosure with looks of terror on their faces. They don’t seem to know anymore where they are.

Still there are good attractions: the birds, for one, the white and multi colored peacocks who bring an “ah” from the crowd when they spread out their tails; the sea eagles high up on the top branches, keeping an eye on everything; the storks and cranes walking around with their long bills down on their chests, as if figuring out some complicated problem, and taking long steps to avoid the pooh on the ground.

Is it a matter of money, or is it that no one cares? There are no signs on many cages. There was no one in the information booth even on the Sunday after Christmas when the zoo was crowded. There could be story tellers for the children, and young actors and actresses to put on skits about animals and tell the children the old animal tales from around the world.

There is one attempt to liven up the zoo life, but it’s hard to judge if it is successful. There is a so called “wishing croc” in one of the cages and people are encouraged to throw in coins and make a wish. The big croc doesn’t seem to notice. People throw the coins and some land on the croc’s back. There’s the problem: Who will go in and get the coins, especially those on the back of the crocodile? It must be 10-12 feet long with teeth like spikes along the side of its mouth.

Money is needed, but wouldn’t people and children contribute if some group of young people made the zoo their project?

Unless we want to hand our children over now to the bondage of the malls, we should do something to improve the best alternative: our zoos and parks.

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

©Copyright 2001-2010, An Inquirer Company

Monday, March 08, 2010


Commentary : Inhumanity

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: March 08, 2010

THE poor woman seen clutching her Santo Niño and weeping bitterly on the front page of the March 5 Inquirer is Angelita Villaruel. Two weeks earlier I praised her courage and that of the other women of Navotas who resisted efforts of the Navotas police to shove aside their human barricade and demolish their houses. The women were water-cannoned and knocked down; they climbed to their feet and were knocked down again; they were clubbed by the police, but still they resisted. For two more weeks they resisted with the help of Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Fathers Allan Lopez and Robert Reyes and the lawyer and staff of Urban Poor Associates, CO Multiversity and COPE. Finally, on March 4, they were overwhelmed and their homes destroyed: 100 shanties were knocked down and 243 families (1,200 men, women and mostly children) were left homeless.

The demolition was illegal and all the government officials involved, from the highest in the DPWH down to the demolition crew, knew that, because there was no relocation. The officials’ justifications for the action seem right out of the half-mad, half-wacky world of “Alice in Wonderland.” The mayor of Navotas says he issued the Certificate of Compliance (COC) needed for a demolition because the DPWH told him it had a relocation spot, even when it hadn’t one. The

DPWH then turned around and said they had to demolish the homes because the mayor had ordered them to do so in the COC.

The people now sleep in the rubble. There is nowhere else to go. They ate together the night of the eviction, red eggs and noodles and rice from the parish. Children play on the back hoe and women cry quietly. Two weeks ago the women asked, “How can they beat us? We’re old enough to be their grandmothers?” They now ask, “How can they leave us homeless with our children?”

The day before the eviction the women and their supporters met with government officials at the National Housing Authority. No solution was reached, but at the end of a long, often heated discussion, the government promised to send its people from various agencies to the site the next morning (March 5) to do what was possible to stop the eviction and mitigate the suffering of the poor. The government people were not there when the eviction started the next morning. One or two came later, but were of little help.

Maybe because evictions are so common and the lives of the poor so alien to the better-off members of society, we have forgotten how huge a tragedy evictions are. It is traumatic for children to see men tear down their homes and to see their mothers knocked to the ground by water cannons. Studies show it ordinarily takes five years for a family to recover economically from a demolition. Women grieve as they see the homes, where they had their children, torn down as if they were junk. The men lose work days; there is more sickness requiring medicine. Distant relocation often means the loss of a job or separation from one’s family for long periods of time. They borrow money to see them through the hard times that is hard to repay. Poor women as well as well-off women feel their house is an extension of themselves—as a man feels his professional work is part of himself—so to see their houses torn down is extremely painful.

In the aftermath of “Ondoy” the government talked of the need to evict huge numbers of poor people from waterways, including the Manggahan Floodway and Lupang Arienda. The number of people affected could be between half a million and one million. Is the wider society prepared to allow the poor to suffer on such a scale? In-city and near-city relocation are far less painful than distant relocation. Can we make them the rule? There is sufficient time left to examine every community, big or small, to determine exactly which ones have to move and where it is best to move them. Surely not all the 200,000 families nominated for relocation need to be sent to far-off resettlement camps from which 35 percent to 40 percent will return, as has been the norm in the past.

The urban poor will most likely vote for candidates such as Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas, I’m told, who have promised the poor to end illegal forced evictions. Demolitions and the fear of demolitions poison urban poor life. On the other hand, a government that treats its poor decently with a sense of dignity, respect for law and the humanity ordered by the Constitution, will have very devoted followers. The first rule of government, as of doctors, should be “do no harm.” Other considerations can come later.

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

©Copyright 2001-2010, An Inquirer Company

Friday, March 05, 2010

Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas to Sign Covenant with the Urban Poor in Tondo


For Immediate Release on 05 March 2010. Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Mar Roxas, the leading candidates in the upcoming polls, will be signing a covenant with the urban poor Saturday, March 6, at the Del Pan Sports Complex, Tondo, Manila.

The covenant is the list of issues submitted to them by the urban poor and housing rights organizations including Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise Foundation (COPE) and UP-All (Urban Poor Alliance).

Before a crowd of ten thousand urban poor people from different parts of Metro Manila, the candidates will promise to carry out the provisions of the covenant if elected.

UPA project coordinator Alice Murphy said, “The signing of the covenant with a leading presidential candidate will be the first in the history of the Philippine Republic. This signifies the candidates’ support of the urban poor and can lead to genuine change in how the government treats the urban poor sector when and if the two assume positions after election.”

The Covenant puts an end to forced eviction. It will not allow any public or private authority to evict families and leave them homeless in the street as is rampantly practiced in the country. It pushes for decent relocation with quality housing, adequate basic services and sustainable livelihood support.

It also calls for more land proclamations and upgrading; more Community Mortgage Programs; doubling of education and health budgets that prioritize poor communities; creation of public works that can generate substantial numbers of jobs for poor people; piped water and legal electricity connections for all poor areas; increase in the housing budget and the extension of land tenure security by all means possible.

“We will be very thankful to Sen. Noynoy and Sen. Mar for signing the covenant. The gesture will be greatly appreciated. More than that, it will gives us, the urban poor, hope in a better future for our children without fear that the new administration will oppress us. Definitely, thousands of urban poor will cast votes in their favor,” said Jeorgie Tenolete President of Baseco Kabalikat and member of Koalisyon ng mga Organisadong Samahan sa Maynila (KOSMA).

The Covenant includes a post-Ondoy rehabilitation program. (Typhoon Ondoy was a cause of the government demolitions of informal settlers living along esteros, coasts, and riversides.) The rehabilitation program identifies remedies that do not require demolition and eviction as it searches for new ways to extend land tenure security to the poor, so they can live and work in the cities.

Part of the Covenant is the appointment of reform-minded persons to head shelter government agencies. The urban poor believe that if the appointed persons in HUDCC or NHA have really a heart for the poor the agencies will be more responsive, efficient, and effective in delivering housing services to the poor families.

Alice Murphy concluded, “We at UPA (Urban Poor Associates) have been fighting for the rights of the poor for the past 30 years. The signing of this covenant might begin to end the long and painful struggles of the poor to alleviate their sad living condition. We have witnessed indiscriminate demolitions and evictions in urban poor communities. In these challenging times, we see hope in the persons of Senators Aquino and Roxas”.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Media Advisory: Covenant Signing between Senators Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and the Urban Poor

File Photo: Senators Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas during a meeting with urban poor settlers in Baseco, Port Area, Manila on Sept. 7, 2008.

Dear Friends,

It is our great pleasure to invite you to the Covenant Signing of the Urban Poor and Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Mar Roxas.

The signing will be held in the Del Pan Sports Complex, Tondo, Manila on Saturday, March 6 at 3:00 to 6:00PM.

The candidate will sign their agreement to the list of issues submitted to them by the urban poor and NGOs. The candidates promise to carry out the provisions of the covenant if elected.

The Covenant calls for: an end to forced evictions; more land proclamations and upgrading; more Community Mortgage Programs; better schools and health service (a doubling of the budget for these matters); creation of public works jobs for the poor; piped water and legal electricity for all poor areas; an increase in the housing budget and the extension of land tenure security by all means possible.

In addition to the signing by Noynoy, Mar and the people, there will be skits, singing, and talks by the two candidates and Mayor Alfredo Lim.

A crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 urban poor people is expected.

Please come.




March 6, 2010 / 3:00 to 6:00PM

Del Pan Sports Complex

Tondo, Manila


National Anthem

Opening Prayer

Introduction of Participants & Special Guests

Isang Dula

Special Performance - Lolita Carbon (Vocalist of Asin)

Reading of the Covenant

Special Performance - Juana Change

Response from Senators Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas

Signing of the Covenant

Turn-Over of Piso-Piso Para sa Pagbabago coin bin

Final Remarks from Mayor Alfredo Lim

Final Blessing - Rev. Fr. Hector Suano

Goodbyes, Thank you’s


Thursday, February 25, 2010

CHR vows to investigate violent R-10 Navotas demolition


CHR vows to investigate violent R-10 Navotas demolition

25 February 2010. Chairperson Leila de Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday vowed to investigate a violent demolition along the R-10 road in Navotas, involving some personnel of the local government, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Navotas Engineering Office, Navotas Police and Navotas Fire Station.

Chairperson de Lima said she will subpoena those who were involved particularly the Navotas policemen who beat up poor women old enough to be their grandmothers.

Women and children wouldn’t disperse from a human barricade they had formed on Jan. 20 to protect their homes against actions of the DPWH which they believed were illegal. They live on land designated for the widening of R-10 road that runs along Manila Bay.

Some of the sixteen women beaten by police sought the protection of CHR during a hearing yesterday. They presented pictures showing their wounds, bandaged toes and the lesions on their arms sustained from the shields and clubs used against them. The women were also water cannoned from a distance of a few feet.

The use of water cannons is illegal in such evictions, according to lawyer Ritche Esponilla of Urban Poor Associates (UPA). Esponilla helped the women in filing a joint affidavit at the CHR right after the forced eviction.

“The Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) itself wrote a letter of concern saying the Certificate of Compliance (COC) issued by the Navotas Local Housing Board to DPWH is not in accordance with the law,” Esponilla pointed out.

“The demolition is illegal because they went ahead with another questionable way to plan the eviction. Instead of relocation, the DPWH offered P21,000 to families to move, an alternative not mentioned in Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992,” Esponilla added.

Esponilla and leaders of Samahang Pinagbuklod ng Pagkakaisa (SAPIPA) went to the Supreme Court on Jan. 15 to file a very urgent motion for early resolution of petition with reiterative prayer for the issuance of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO). Petitioners filed their petition on April 16, 2008. The High Court gave due course to the said petition although it did not issue the injunction or TRO sought for. The instant petition had not been resolve yet.

The residents agree to move and they qualify for the relocation, according to Task Force Anti Eviction, an eviction watchdog composed of community organizations and NGOs such as UPA, Community Organization for the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), and Community Organizers Multiversity (COM). “In fact R-10 Navotas is listed as among the 11 priority areas for Montalban relocation which is certified by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC),” the group said

“We are not against development. We were just protecting our homes and our rights as human beings. They don’t have to use shields, truncheons and water cannons against women and children,” said Prescilda Juanich, leader of SAPIPA.

Chairperson de Lima told her lawyers to write letters inviting those who were involved in the demolition, including Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco to justify their actions. “Why do they have to inflict injuries? There should be a cease and desist order pending the investigation,” de Lima said. -30-

Monday, February 22, 2010

Media Advisory: Thirty-hour Pilgrimage with Fr. Robert Reyes

Lakbay Dalangin
Hanapin at Palaganapin ang Liwanag
Kariton ni Maria, Kariton ng Mahirap
February 24 (Wednesday 8am) to February 25 (Thursday 2pm)

Seek and Spread the Light

I. Rationale:

Questions often asked but what are the answers?

What went wrong after the two EDSAs? What happened after the so-called People Power Revolution? Why didn’t power remain with the people? Why did power remain in the hands of a jealous and selfish elite? Why have people remained poor; divided; shallow; etc. What and where is the problem? What structures/systems/institutions perpetuate the problem? What kind of leaders benefit from and preserve the current social Structures/systems, i.e. the Status Quo? Who are they? (They will be known by their track records.)What laws are good as far as the common and ecological good is concerned? What laws are against the common and ecological good; against the people, particularly the poor? Are elections the answer to the continual disempowerment of the people? What kind of politics will empower our people? What kind of spirituality is needed to empower and lead people from apathy, lack of self-confidence; dependency; personality/showbiz orientation; etc? What kind of spirit or vision will dispel the cynicism and encourage faith and hope, a re-kindling of the “light within” everyone, the power of goodness, love and compassion?

The answer clearly lies in the fact that political and societal structures and leaders disempower the poor. The poor comprise various sectors: 1) Urban Poor; 2) Workers; 3) Farmers; 4) Overseas Filipino Workers and their families; 5) Drivers (taxi, jeepney, bus; 6) Street sweepers; 7) Garbage collectors; etc.

The question is fundamentally an issue of disempowerment. What was known as People Power was a short-lived celebration of a mélange of sectors fighting for a common cause: the middle class; church; business; students leading with the poor walking or following somewhere behind. EDSA Dos was more or less a resurrection of the same mélange of forces: with Cardinal Sin once again taking the lead were students; business; religious groups and once again the middle class. Both EDSA One and Dos ended with the military shifting sides: Enrile and Ramos then and Angelo Reyes et al in EDSA Dos.

An interesting combination of politicians and the poor came together against GMA and mounted what they insisted was the People Power of the Poor called EDSA Tres.

In all of the attempts at change, the poor are either used or sidelined with a sector of the usual economic-political elite taking over. From Cory to Gloria, we may ask which government was truly pro-poor and pro-people? If all the governments after Marcos truly addressed the needs and concerns of the poor and the people in general, wouldn’t we then be much better off today? But why are the poor getting poorer and poorer from administration to administration? Isn’t the answer so glaringly clear? Elitist democracy which does nothing more than pay lip service to the poor has remained and grown bigger and uglier each time.

Where are the leaders who truly journey with the poor, before, during and most especially after elections?

Who are the leaders who have consistently listened, dialogued and worked with the poor towards realistic and effective solutions to their nagging problems?

Most leaders seem only interested in occupying and exploiting their position. Leading and serving are the least of their concern. Few of them fit John Quincy Adams description: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, or become more, you are a leader.”

II. Walk, Talk and Work with The Poor

February 24 to 25, A Thirty Hour Walk with the Poor

February 25, 1986, twenty four years ago, after four days of peaceful struggle, the Filipino people wore out a sick and fading dictator to reclaim their freedom. In the last twenty four years, after four presidents (Cory;FVR; Erap; GMA) the democracy supposedly restored has progressively and systematically degenerated into its present form. From administration to administration, promises were made to dialogue and work with the poor on their problems. So little has happened to realize an organic relationship between government and people, most especially the poor.

In a few months the National Elections will allow us to change our leaders. But who among the candidates will bring in genuine and profound change? Who among the candidates will truly champion the needs and issues of the poor? Will the various government agencies do their work, especially COMELEC? Will the various institutions which have the resources be vigilant and ready to take the appropriate action? Will every sector; every individual guard the ballots and preserve the sanctity of the electoral process?

Twenty four years later, EDSA has all but lost its value and relevance. Betrayal seems the most appropriate explanation for its failure. We need to re-learn how lessons are learned thru:

1) Remembrance (Returning to Life-giving Experiences);
2) Repetition (Meaningful and Creative Commemoration of Experiences);
3) Reflection (Looking into one’s present life and relating it to the lessons of the life-giving experience);
4) Renewal (Looking at one’s weaknesses; inconsistencies and contradictions and making genuine and sustained efforts to change, convert oneself.) and
5) Realization (Making the lessons real,visible and fruitful in one’s life).

Thus, we of Kubol Pagasa offer this thirty hour Pilgrimage to seek and spread the Light (Lakbay Dalangin, Palaganapin ang Liwanag). We offer this sacrifice in order to remember; repeat; reflect; renew and realize the lessons; values and spirit of EDSA.


Date Time Location

2-24 8:00 a.m R10 Navotas
9:00 a.m. Baseco
9:30 a.m. DPWH
10:00 a.m. Manila Cathedral
10:30a.m Mass: Comelec
12:00 N CBCP
1:00 p.m. Supreme Court
2:00 p.m. Malacanang, Mendiola
3:00 p.m. Our Lady of Loreto, Sampaloc
Cardinal Sin Retirement Home for Priests
4:00p.m . Quiapo Mosque
5:00p.m. Church of the Nazarene, Quiapo
8:00p.m. Diocese of Cubao, Lantana Street
9:00p.m. OLPH, 13th Avenue, Cubao
10:00 p.m. TOLP, 18th Avenue, Cubao
11:00 p.m. OLMMP, Proj. 4; Escopa

Feb. 25 1:00a.m. Christ the King, Green Meadows (pause)
3:00 a.m. Sta. Clara, Poor Clares
4:00a.m. San Jose Seminary, Ateneo,Katipunan
5:00 a.m. Church of Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman
7:00a.m. Immaculate Heart of Mary, Claret
8:00a.m. DAR/DA/DENR/NHA
9:00a.m. PAO, East Avenue
10:00a.m. Quezon City Jail
11:00a.m. Camp Crame
12:00Noon Edsa Shrine; People Power Monument
2:00p.m. Araneta Coliseum

n.b. I have been away from the Diocese of Cubao for the last four years (Feb 2006 to July 2010). The pilgrimage is also my own personal re-learning (Remembrance; Repetition; Reflection; Renewal; Realization) of the lessons of my personhood; citizenship and priesthood. On February 24 I will be fifty five years old. On March 18 I will be twenty eight years a priest. I will retrace my human and priestly itinerary within the thirty hours: i.e. R10 Navotas, nearby is Malabon where I grew up; Manila Cathedral (where I was ordained a priest on March 18, 1982); Our Lady of Loreto Church (my first assignment April 1982); Our Lady of Perpetual Help (my second assignment, May 1982); Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish, Murphy (my first assignment as Parish priest, 1992-1996); Church of the Holy Sacrifice, UP, Diliman (my second assignment as parish priest, 1996-2993); Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (my third assignment as parish priest, 2003-2005); Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Lantana (the Seat of my bishop Honesto Ongtioco). I hope to pray with my brother priests and bishop in their respective parishes and offices.

I look forward to visiting the retired priests of Cardinal Sin Retirement Home for Priest, especially Msgr. Montemayor who has requested that I visit them more often. The pilgrimage will also pass through urban poor communities where I have worked. Here too, I shall pray with and for the poor who have enriched and deepened my life both as priest and Filipino.

The pilgrimage will pass through government offices which I have continually engaged throughout my life, striving to make them serve and not betray God and the people to whom they owe allegiance. Significantly, the pilgrimage will pass through the Golden Mosque of Quiapo. Muslim friends will wait for me here and join me at prayer for better Christian-Muslim ties. I have learned to journey with our Muslim brothers and sisters since 1996 when I began working with the Movement for Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

This is my humble contribution to the commemoration of EDSA. It is also my prayer engaging body, mind and spirit that in the coming May 10, 2010 Elections we will act according to what we have learned so that the Light will finally Shine and Free us from all that enslaves and brings us all down.

The pilgrimage is also a thanksgiving for all the blessings that I have received. The Kariton ni Maria is now more than ten years. Thank you Tess and Jay Daza for repairing and restoring the Kariton. Thank you Mary Gomez for the new statue of the Lady of Fatima. I thank Bishop Pedro Arigo in particular for accepting me as a guest priest in the Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan. I look back and thank all the bishops, priests and religious with whom I have worked. I thank God for my Kubol Pagasa community. I thank God for the good people of China and Hong Kong who have opened their homes to me. And last but not least, there are my parents Carlos and Naty who in spite of my unorthodox and sometimes “problematic” ways continue to support me and my ministry. God has planted the Light of faith in all of us. It is this Light that shines in spite and often because of the darkness. It is toward this Light that the Kariton ni Maria will always journey. It is toward this Light that we will all journey until the day that It embraces us forever.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
Kubol Pagasa
February 21, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Best and worst of government

Commentary : Best and worst of government

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: February 18, 2010

EVERY DAY IN METRO MANILA WE HAVE numerous examples of the best and worst practices of government. In Navotas, young policemen beat up poor women old enough to be their grandmothers. The women wouldn’t disperse from a barricade they had formed to protect their homes against actions of the Department of Public Works and Highways which they believed were illegal. Lawyers and other government offices agree with the women.

Meanwhile in Baseco, Manila Mayor Fred Lim and Barangay Chair Cristo Hispano have agreed to resettle 300 fire victim families in the most humane and efficient way possible.

Cora Geducos, 61, was one of the women beaten by police in Navotas along the R-10 road that runs along Manila Bay. “He held his shield against my face,” she said of the young policeman who clubbed her, “then he bent down and hit my legs and feet with his club.” She showed me her bandaged toe and the lesions on her arms. “I didn’t think they would do that to us. We were just protecting our homes and our rights as human beings. I feel very sad about what happened. It hurts to think they would do that to old women like myself.”

Sixteen other women showed their wounds, including Angelita Villaruel, Virginia Cantellas, Daisy Jalbuena and Emma Villaruel. Few wanted to give their ages.

Fr. Robert Reyes had led a prayer service in the street at which the men and women of the barricade laughed and cried, hugged one another, listened to the Scripture, prayed and sang “Ama Namin,” which has become the anthem of the oppressed ever since it was sung in the giant rallies that supported Cory Aquino before and after the snap election of 1986.

The women were also water cannoned from a distance of a few feet. The use of water cannons is illegal in such evictions. Water cannons on women!

Usually after big fires the government takes steps to keep the poor from returning to the land they occupied, because it believes it has better use for the land. The fire victims must look for land elsewhere. Mayor Lim, the barangay captain, the local people’s organization, Kabalikat and architects from the Mapua School of Architecture have agreed on something more useful.

They, too, will not allow people to return to the land they occupied, but only until the land has been surveyed and subdivided into lots, and then they can return. The new settlement will have straight roads for ambulance and fire engine access. Access is the biggest problem in most slum fires. The recent fire spread because fire trucks couldn’t get near it.

Second, the mayor and others will ask the Mapua School of Architecture to survey and plan the settlement in consultation with the people.

Third, the restructured area will be the model for the other 6,000 families living in barong-barongs in Baseco. Because the soil is very “risky” and liable to liquefaction in case of an earthquake, houses will be limited to one story. The people involved will work with neighborhood groups, including Muslim organizations and Fr. Cris Sabili and the St. Hannibal Empowerment Center (SHEC).

The fire area has been bulldozed, and now looks like an ancient battle field excavated after the ages. Individual men and women wander about on it, lost in their thoughts. The setting sun sends long shadows of playing children across the scorched ground. The people are content as they line up for relief goods; they don’t have to worry about relocation. That is, all the people except the parents of a little girl who died in the fire.

In Navotas the people live on land designated for the widening of R-10. They agree to move and they qualify in every way for the relocation ordered in the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. If they receive their relocation allowance, they will move.

The DPWH says it asked the National Housing Authority and other agencies to provide resettlement. When they couldn’t do so, the

DPWH claimed it had done all that was required and went ahead in another questionable way to plan the eviction. Instead of a home, it offered P21,000 to families to move, an alternative not mentioned in the law.

There is a greater willingness now even among the most influential government agencies to ignore the housing and resettlement laws. The government can deal kindly or cruelly with the poor, but there are serious consequences in this life and the next.

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

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