Urban Poor Brace for a Wave of Demolitions, Evictions
story of Davao City’s urban-poor communities is the “real state of the
nation, of the urban poor.” It is a “distressing predicament” that
the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has failed to
address, in spite of the promises she made in her State of the Nation
Address last year and the year before that.
Bulatlat.com Mindanao Bureau
CITY – Somewhere along the national highway in Buhangin District this city,
some 175 families had lived, literally, on the road. Their houses were built by
the roadside, their lives in constant danger from the vehicles and huge cargo
trucks. Their homes were called eyesores and an obstruction to the highway.
spite of all this, these poor Davaoeños managed to keep roof over their heads,
no matter that their homes were actually made of trash and discarded wood,
cardboards and tin. It’s not much, said Antonio Ramos, 57, but it was all they
had since the early ‘80s.
what the danger along the highway failed to do, the entry of one real-estate
company did. In May this year, the shanties were demolished, ostensibly because
of the danger the highway posed to the poor residents. As far as the residents
are concerned, however, their eviction had something to do with Robinson
Highland, a first-class subdivision whose owners had complained to the City
Engineer’s Office (CEO) about the “eyesores.” The subdivision’s entrance
was built right beside the row shanties.
year, the CEO threatened to demolish the shanties. The poor residents had no
choice but to leave and transfer to a government-designated relocation site in
Tibungco. The problem is, most of the roadside residents were drivers of
tricycle, “tricy-boats” and PUJ. Some of them were constructions workers.
many residents have not transferred to the 2.5-hectare Tibungco relocation site
because it is still being negotiated. They are worried that they might not be
able to afford the P3,600 advance and P300 amortization per month. “Our daily
income is so small we cannot even afford three square meals a day,” Ramos, who
has two children, said.
story of the Buhangin roadside “squatters” is the “real state of the
nation, of the urban poor,” said Editha Duterte, vice president for Mindanao
of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay). It is a “distressing
predicament” that the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has
failed to address, in spite of the promises she made in her State of the Nation
Address (Sona) last year, she said.
it is a predicament that the city’s urban poor fear would worsen in the coming
months. As President Arroyo prepares for her SONA on Monday, where no doubt she
would once again highlight her administration’s achievements, the urban poor
are bracing for tumultuous days ahead.
Administrator Melchor Quitain has said he would pursue the implementation of
City Hall’s order for the CEO to demolish about 1,000 houses from 30
residential areas. According to City Engineer Medrano Metran this would mean at
least one demolition every day in Davao City in the coming weeks.
July alone, five urban-poor communities were demolished: in Ecoland (857
houses), Leon Garcia (20 houses), Panacan and Sasa (40 houses), Toril (seven
houses) and Bankerohan (40 houses).
are sure that she will brag about many things in her SONA,” Kadamay’s
Duterte told Bulatlat.com, “but the real test of a strong republic and the
real indicator of the state of the nation is the condition of the poor.”
prices of commodities and utilities, she said, have been going up. This only
worsens the condition of the urban poor, many of whom are being driven out of
their homes with ferocity.
recent victims of demolition are the families in Barangay 8-A, Bankerohan, this
city. According to Bert Cardeno, an officer of the Upper Hill Neighborhood
Association, around 600 families lost their homes during two incidents of
demolitions, the latest one on July 17. Armed with steel bars and hatchets, the
demolition team stormed the community, supported by members of the police who
fired shots in order to frighten the residents, Cardeno said.
demolitions, Cardeno added, were illegal and didn’t follow due process.
He said the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) has the
sole authority to order the demolition of homes and the eviction of poor
residents. This was indicated in the executive order signed by President Arroyo
on Dec. 10, 2002.
said his association sought the assistance of PCUP after they were demolished
last year, in which 40 houses belonging to Unha members were destroyed, but the
commission turned down their plea, saying that its role was only to monitor
extra-judicial and court-ordered demolition. The City Engineers Office
spearheaded the demolitions, allegedly without coordinating it with the PCUP.
Kadamay’s Duterte said the demolitions in the city and in other parts of
Mindanao “is a manifestation of the state’s denial of a genuine
comprehensive housing program for the urban poor.” She pointed out that EO 152
that created PCUP is “inutile” since it cannot ensure that the
government’s so-called “no demolition without relocation” policy is
EO is nothing but a deception by government, to make it appear that it is doing
something for the urban poor yet the agency is essentially hollow. Its functions
do not serve the interest of the poor,” she said.
and humane demolition?
EO 152, eviction and demolition are allowed as long as these are “just and
humane.” But Duterte laughed off this caveat. “How can you call it just and
humane when you are driving people from their homes?” she said.
she said, the experience of the urban poor is that demolitions are almost always
violent. “In our experience, the local government deploys police personnel,
members of the Philippine Army and the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) to the
squatters’ area to make sure that the demolition is carried out,” she said.
soldiers and the police, she said, are used as “hound dogs of the big
capitalists and landlords in harassing the helpless residents.” In full battle
gear, she added, they “enter the urban poor communities as if they were ready
to kill unarmed civilians. This is a desperate act of the government in response
to the housing problem of the urban poor.”
cited the case of Davao City, where City Hall tapped the Task Force Davao in the
demolition of houses in Barangay 37-D. Members of the task force were not
actually on the scene but they were put on stand-by in case a confrontation
between the demolition team and the residents broke out. Fortunately, no
violence took place in the demolition last April 25. But at least 90 houses were
destroyed by the City Engineer’s Office.
human-rights group Karapatan assailed the tapping of the Task Force Davao for
the demolition, saying the move practically made “borderless” the task
force’s mandate, which was originally formed to go after terrorists. Bulatlat.com
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