By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
TIMES ST. Quezon City — Carolina Batarina’s husband left her to fend for their five children a few years ago. Since then, she has been raising their children on her own, trying to make ends meet with the meager income she earns from renting a few rooms in her humble house. Another threat of demolition is yet another burden, which she finds just too much to bear
“There is fear. But since my husband left me, my children do not have anyone to depend on except for me. I would do what I could to put a stop to the demolition that would throw us away to far-flung areas where we would hardly survive,” Batarina, 46, told Bulatlat.com.
Batarina’s home is among the thousands that would be displaced because of the Quezon City Central Business District, a 250-hectare project that would supposedly put Quezon City at the heart of foreign investments. The residents of Sitio San Roque have been facing threats of eviction since former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Executive Order 629 and 629-A. Under President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, who won under the banner of change, residents still face threat of demolition.
Carolina Batarina and her five year old son Carl.(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
Last March 28, residents living along EDSA in North Triangle received a notice of eviction from Task Force for the Control,Prevention, Privatization and Demolition of Illegal Structures and Squatters, an agency under the office of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista. The notice states that residents have until the Holy Week to leave their homes. On April 11, 2012, employees of the National Housing Authority went to the community to mark the extent of their road widening project, which, as a result, would demolish the homes of its residents. Batarina’s home is included in the target area.
“We heard that they would demolish everything beyond that red line, including ours. But I know that after a few months, they would demolish more homes. They cannot make us leave our homes so their tactic is not to displace us all at the same time, just little by little,” Batarina said.
While there is a relocation site offered to them such as in the province of Montalban and in Bulacan, Batarina stressed that she has no plans of moving out. “Only if the relocation site has everything that we need, from social services to livelihood.”
Storm Aquino’s home
Residents barricaded their community in the morning of April 12, 2012 at the impending threat of demolition. While no demolition team arrived that morning, the residents decided to storm Aquino’s ancestral home in Times Street, a 20-minute walk from their community.
“We have to make Aquino pay for every sleepless night that our families have endured every time there are threats of demolition of our homes. This time Aquino’s demolition rampage should be stopped,” Estrielieta Bagasbas, one of the residents and leader of the September 23 movement, said.
Residents outran the police and reached the gate of Aquino’s house, where they held a 15 minute program.
“President Aquino remains faithful to his class as he continues with the development of Quezon City Central Business District. Social justice and the rights of the urban poor are totally disregarded under this administration in order to give way to big businesses like the Ayalas,” Gloria Arellano, secretary general of Kadamay, said.
Among the supporters who arrived on April 12, 2012 to give their support to the resident of North Triangle are also urban poor dwellers who have also experienced harassment and demolition of their homes.
Diamond Kalaw, 45, is a resident of an urban poor community in Batasan, Quezon City. She and her husband earn from vending fashion accessories, sunglasses, among others. Their meager income do not cover the needs of their 12 children. “Our income is not the same. It is always extreme. Sometimes, we would have food on the table and on other days, we do not have any.”
In 2004, their community received a notice from the local government of Quezon City to demolish only two homes to allow a right of way to the newly-constructed health center. “Of course we allowed it because it would benefit all of us. But on September 9, 2004, a day I would not forget, they demolished the two homes and everyone else’s house,” Kalaw said.
About 30 families lost their homes that day, without any financial assistance or relocation sites offered to them. More than half of the families decided to move in with their relatives. But 11 families insisted on staying. They lived on the streets for more than a year.
Kalaw is at the forefront of fighting for their rights to decent housing. She received several death threats from local government and village officials. Kalaw also lost her then 17-year-old son Macmac who died under mysterious circumstances. A village official, known to be against the fight that Kalaw is waging, invited her son to go to Wakwak dam. The village official then came back with news that Macmac drowned.
“We recovered his body 24 hours later. Based on how he looked, it does not seem to me that he drowned. He seemed like tortured. Maybe because they could not get me, they tried to get even by going after my son,” she said.
Kalaw added that their family did not file a single case because they do not have a single drop of hope that justice would be served to their family. “Our criminal justice is full of loopholes. There is no justice for the poor under the ruling government,” she said.
In helping other communities facing demolition, Kalaw said that she is able to show that her son did not die in vain.
Even if the demolition did not happen last April 12, 2012, residents vowed to continue their vigilance. “The residents of North Triangle will do anything to stop the demolition of our homes, even as local and national government agencies deploy thousands of police and SWAT to quell our resistance,” Bagasbas of September 23 Movement said.
The red line marked by NHA officials in the Sitio San Roque community that marks the extent of the “road widening project.”(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
She added that aside from North Triangle, other communities in Metro Manila also face threats of demolition in the name of development. Some 1,000 residents in Silverio Compound in Paranaque City stormed SM Hypermart along Sucat Road and Paranaque City Hall for the looming demolition they are facing. The demolition of their homes will supposedly give way to a high-rise condominium unit.
Arellano of Kadamay said urban poor communities would continue to barricade their homes. “Our lives are at stake here. We have nothing more to lose if we do not stand up against this injustice by the government,” she said.
As for Batarina, she believes that the Quezon City Central Business District is in fact a good development to their city. But added that this is not the kind of development that would benefit urban poor dwellers such as her family. “We just want to be included in the development they are pushing. The government should consider the welfare of both rich and poor. Or, on second thought, they are rich aren’t they?”