By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Outside the emergency room of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Buddy Padil, 37, silently sat. He is the uncle of Iris Isaias, 18, who sustained a gunshot wound during the demolition at Silverio compound in Parañaque City on April 23.
A bullet pierced Iris’ calf. “The bullet went through it. The bulet shattered the area of the bone it hit and the doctor said that they need to put metal on it,” Padil said.
Iris was first brought to Ospital ng Muntinlupa but the hospital was not equipped to treat her wounds. She was transferred to the PGH.
“She was only standing outside the compound when she suddenly noticed that the people were already carrying her, shouting. It was only then that realized that she was hit,” Padil said, “These days we would always catch her staring at nothing. She might still be in a state of shock.”
On April 25, Iris went through an operation. Padil said that Isaias’ father, Danilo, a carpenter, is at a loss as to where they would get money to pay for the operation. Doctors told them that the metal that would be placed in Isaias’ left calf costs US$1,465.
The number of residents with gunshot wounds remains undetermined as documentation is still on going. Iris and the other injured residents belied earlier claims that the policemen used blank and/or rubber bullets.
Shooting at bystanders
Also at the PGH was Angelo Lipata, 21. Angelo could hardly hear the questions asked to him as a bullet is stuck in his left ear drum. He was told by his doctors to go home for the time being, citing that they could not operate and remove the bullet until the wound is healed.
During the demolition, Angelo was watching videos of the then ongoing conflict between the Silverio compound residents who were defending their homes and the police. The videos had been quickly uploaded on YouTube by alternative media group Tudla Productions. After watching them, he decided to go out and see for himself what was happening outside. He went and stood next to the barricade when the police began to fire indiscriminately at the residents, who ran for their lives.
Suddenly his world began spinning and he became very dizzy.
“I thought that a stone hit me. I reached for my head and blood was oozing. I thought I was dying. I knew right then that it was a gunshot wound,” he said.
His father, Arnold, tried to take him to the hospital, but he was arrested by the police. Instead, Angelo’s brother Cristopher took him to the nearby Paranaque Medical Hospital, a private facility. “They did not accept me because they said that they were already treating too many patients,” he said.
Angelo was taken from one hospital to another until he was was finally brought to the the PGH at around 6:00 p.m. that day. “During those times, blood continued to flow from my ear,” he added.
Angelo is the eldest of four children. He is a sales utility assistant in mall near their community. He is a minimum wage earner and the family’s breadwinner. Even if he recuperates fast from the bullet wound, he fears that he might have difficulties finding a new job since his work contract is about to end in June.
His father Arnold, meanwhile, risks losing his job as a liaison officer in the Philippine Racing Club if he is unable to report for work on April 26. Arnold is only allowed three days of emergency leave.
“Our house is not just what is at stake here. Ever our livelihood is threatened” Angelo said.
“It was a bloodbath. One is already dead, many are injured and, still, many are arrested without any proof,” Juanita, 44, Angelo’s mother said. She added that she was hurting over what her son experienced. She said that Angelo is a very dutiful son who helps his younger siblings to school.
Last march 25, members of women’s group Gabriela – National Capital Region visited the victims confined at the PGH. They brought the wounded residents flowers and fruits.
“We are glad that there are groups supporting us. At least we feel that we are not alone in our fight,” Angelo said.
Ian Arevalo, spokesperson of Gabriela-NCR said that actions of the policemen of the Southern Police District amounted to overkill.
“Such inhumane treatment is a precedent to all the looming demolitions across the country,” Arevalo, spokesperson of Gabriela-NCR, said.
The Silverio compound is a 9.7 hectare community that consists of 25,000 families. Under then Paranaque City mayor Joey Marquez, the land became subject for expropriation, supposedly to give way to low cost housing. But under the administration of Mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr., residents face threats of demolition.
Despite the miseries that the demolition of their homes posed to the residents of Silverio compound, Juanita said that their family is still going to fight for their rights. “Our fight will continue. There is no relocation offer and we have nowhere to go.”
Aquino neglects urban poor
Angelo, for his part, said that President Benigno Aquino has done and said anything to aid the residents.
“The national government appears to have completely neglected us and the rest of the urban poor,” he said.
Arevalo of Gabriela criticized Aquino for being mum on the issue despite the death of a resident and the indiscriminate firing of members of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).
“It goes to show that he does not have any plans for the urban poor other than to demolish them. This does not come as a surprise because developing the Silverio Compound is among the projects under his flagship program Public Private Partnership.”
“We laud the residents of Silverio compound, especially the women who vigorously fought and asserted their rights. Their determination to fight will not be cowed by the bullets that the police fired or by the tear gas that they released,” Arevalo said, “They stand as an inspiration to the hundreds of thousands who are also facing threats of demolition in their respective communities.”