“For the homeless, the kariton is a dwelling place. For the jobless, a wooden pushcart is their means of livelihood. As long as we see the poor living and working in wooden pushcarts, it would be a reminder that people continue to be deprived of their right to life.” Joy Lumawod, Kadamay-NCR
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Gloria Pascua, 72, asserted that she should be the boss of President Benigno S. Aquino III, referring to the latter’s “Kayo ang Boss ko” message when he was proclaimed president. But the police who blocked the protest march of the urban poor did not budge, brandishing their truncheons and shields.
“I am commanding you to give way to us. We are the boss,” Pascua said during the protest action in front of the Bustillos church, a few steps away from the historic Chino Roces Bridge, more commonly known by its former name Mendiola Bridge.
Public Private Partnership monster that demolishes the homes of urban poor dwellers(Photo Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
For Pascua, life has not changed under the Aquino administration. It has, in fact, worsened with the inaccessibility of basic social services due to the continuing privatization and budget cuts. She said that even a freedom park like Mendiola Bridge may have been privatized already because it has become inaccessible. Members of the Philippine National Police blocked the protest march of the urban poor from entering the premises of Mendiola.
“Mendiola is a public place. We have a right to go there and hold our program,” Pascua told Bulatlat.com.
The protest march was organized by urban poor groups and residents from several urban poor communities to demand for justice for the violations against the people’s economic, social and political rights that the government has been committing under the guise of “development.”
However, the groups were not able to air their concerns at Mendiola Bridge as the police blocked their way in front of the Bustillos church, forcing the protesters to hold their program there.
Urban poor groups criticizes the oil industry for its unjust and high fees (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
“Where is democracy?” Paulo Quiza, spokesperson of Bayan – National Capital Region,asked.
Kariton and public private partnerships
In a statement, urban poor groups participating in the protest action said their wooden pushcarts symbolize the poverty that most Filipinos go through everyday.
“For the homeless, the kariton is a dwelling place. For the jobless, a wooden pushcart is their means of livelihood. As long as we see the poor living and working in wooden pushcarts, it would be a reminder that people continue to be deprived of their right to life.” Joy Lumawod, spokesperson of Kadamay-NCR, said.
The groups condemned President Benigo S. Aquino III’s public private partnership programs, which pave the way for the demolition of the homes and livelihood of many urban poor dwellers.
“It is like martial law in the evacuation center. I was told that they could not talk to each other because the staff of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) would tell them that they would be asked to leave,” Fernando Sevilla, president of Nagkakaisang Samahan sa Kadiwa in Navotas, said.
The community of Kadiwa has been demolished by the local government from Nov. 8 to Nov. 28, 2011. Residents were transferred to the evacuation center, where they were promised to wait until the medium-rise residential buildings is done. “They said it would be finished in a year. But they did not mention when they would start the project,” Sevilla said.
The demolition of their community would give way to the North Bay Boulevard Project, which aims to reclaim 5,000 hectares of foreshore lands at the expense of the homes and livelihood of some 20,000 fishing and urban poor families residing in the area.
Those who fought for their rights like Sevilla continue to receive death threats. In one attempt to kill him, the perpetrator instead killed another community leader Antonio Homo. Since then, Sevilla could not return to his home. He is also facing two cases: slight physical injuries and grave threat.
Another youth leader from the community, Jerwin de Antonio was also tortured and killed, reportedly by police. His body was found on April 21, 2011.
“Where is development if the people are suffering and their rights being violated?” Sevilla said.
Carts symbolizes poverty in the Philippines(Photo Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
Continue the fight
Aside from the Homo and de Antonio, three more urban poor leaders were killed in their struggle for their right to housing and livelihood. They were Len Zomero and the two martyrs of Pangarap Village namely Rommel Fortades and Soliman Gomez.
“When we oppose such policies, the government reacts with violence,” Loi Villarias, spokesperson of Kadamay-NCR, said, adding that the victims of extrajudicial killings were killed because of their active involvement in the struggle against demolition.
Quiza told Bulatlat.com that even as urban poor dwellers are dismayed with the government’s attitude toward the poor. “At the other end, the government is desperate to quell our voices and resistance,” he added.
To attain justice, Quiza said, they would have to persevere in and intensify their struggle. “We hope to change this government who serves only the few, rich people.”