YEARENDER: 2011, a precarious life for the urban poor

The same fate happened to the residents of Laperal compound in Makati City, when a fire razed their community. They soon received demolition threats from the local government. The demolition on April 28 turned violent when residents stood their ground to protect their homes from 1,000-strong Makati Public Safety force and eight trucks full of armed policemen. The Makati government also sent 500 construction workers from Helmark Construction Company to join the demolition team.

“What were we supposed to do — stand there while they destroyed our houses? While they took away everything we worked for all these years? We had no choice but to defend our houses, never mind that most of them had already been damaged because of the fire. We are defending our community, we are fighting for our right to live there,” William Balderas, president of a local chapter of Courage partylist, told in an interview.

About 500 families were relocated to Montalban during the April 28 demolition, where they soon found themselves clueless on how they could begin their lives with such an uncertain future.

“We lost all our furniture, our clothes, most of what we saved through the years in the fire. Then the demolition operations took away what was left of our hope to rebuild our lives,” Mrs. Elena Ordonez, the vice president of the community association Damayang Mahihirap sa Laperal, said.

Human rights violations

Those who were brave enough to actively fight and oppose demolitions were subjected to rights violations and, worst, killed.

“The mere fact that you are trying to displace them from their homes is already violating their rights. How much more when you arrest them for merely protecting their homes or kill them for fighting for their rights?” Badion said.

Sevilla, a leader from Kadiwa, Navotas, received death threats. In one attempt to kill him, the perpetrator instead killed Antonio Homo, the first urban poor leader who became a victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino administration. Since then, Sevilla could not go home. He is also facing two cases: slight physical injuries and grave threat.

A youth leader from Navotas, Jerwin de Antonio was also tortured and killed. His body was recovered on April 21, 2011.

Three more urban poor leaders were also 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.

Struggle vs UDHA

For a long time, Badion of Kadamay said protecting one’s home from demolition would always include barricading communities because there is no legal remedy that could be of help. The only law passed, the Urban Development and Housing Act, only paved the way to make demolitions legal.

Through the Urban Development and Housing Act, Glecy Macabali of Save Freedom Island Movement, the government only made demolitions legal for as long as they “follow” the requisites that the law provides. She said it is now being used against the urban poor, adding that the law is “useless” and “would not serve the interest of the poor.”

Save Freedom Island Movement is a group that opposes the government plan to reclaim the island in Gulungan Market in Parañaque City, where about 17,000 individuals would lose their source of livelihood.

In a consultation between urban poor groups and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers this year, they found out that there is a big disparity between what is stipulated in the law and what is being implemented on the ground.

There were also vague provisions that could be used against the poor such as terms “danger areas.” Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said the law is so vague that it could be twisted to reflect the position of the government, such as after the fire that razed the community in Kadiwa, Navotas.

As for court orders, Badion said during the consultation, in their experience, no court orders were ever presented to the people during demolitions. In fact, he added, during the two separate demolitions in North Triangle in Quezon City and in Corazon de Jesus in San Juan, no one from the local government team could present the residents with a court order backing their demolition.

“The law’s intent is only to delay the demolition but never to put a stop to it,” Cortez said. “It is a stop-gap measure.” He added that what needs to be done to put a stop to demolitions is to continue organizing the the residents.

What 2012 holds

In the coming year, Badion said they are expecting the Aquino administration to implement and intensify its anti-people policies that would surely displace urban poor communities from their homes and livelihood. “2012 holds a harder struggle for our organizations and our members. Demolitions might start as early as January,” he added.

More and more families fear that they would soon be relocated in far communities, away from their jobs and livelihood as the Quezon City Central Business District and MRT Line 7 would soon be implemented.

The Aranetas, a landed family in the Philippines, have been claiming ownership to hundreds of hectares of agricultural land in Tungkong Mangga and and the Pangarap Village in Caloocan City, sites where the MRT-7 railways will be built.

This would, in return, displace thousands of families in the name of so-called development under President Aquino’s public-private partnership program. Instead of seeing urban poor dwellers as an integral part of development, the urban poor group lamented in a recently held church-urban poor solidarity conference, that they are portrayed as against development.

Basic social services, the solidarity statement of the conference said, are being privatized thereby becoming expensive. Even mass housing has become a profit-making enterprise. “Harsh demolitions,” the solidarity statement read, “have become a common occurrence to drive away urban poor communities in the name of progress.”

“The urban poor are not anti-development. We just want our welfare to be included in government plans,” Badion said during the conference.

He told that among the signs that the Aquino administration is continuing its attack on urban poor is the increasing number from their membership and other associations who are asking for their advice on how to barricade their community from demolition.

So far, the Aquino administration has allocated P10 billion ($232.5 million) for the relocation of informal settlers living in Pasay City’s “danger areas.” The government would also be allocating an additional P50 billion ($1.162 billion) each year until 2016 for housing projects in Metro Manila.

The project, said Badion, looks positive at first. But if studied more carefully, it would translate to more demolitions of homes of urban poor families.

“If the Aquino administration really wants to be of service to the Filipino people and be true to his ‘daang matuwid,’ (straight path) he should hold an indefinite moratorium on demolitions and realign the funding allotted for demolitions to rehabilitate relocation sites and provide social services,” Badion said.

He added that the urban poor will continue to fight for their rights. “There is no other way but to strengthen our ranks not just from demolitions but from the attacks of this government such as the absence of jobs and social services for its people.” (

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  1. Globalization proved nothing well for our citizentry because more million people are plunged into poverty.

    Here in the metropolis, projects needed one ingriedient: demolition. Onli In The Pilipins

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