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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