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 upa@pldtdsl.net

©Copyright 2001-2010 INQUIRER.net, 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 upa@pldtdsl.net.

©Copyright 2001-2010 INQUIRER.net, 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