By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Urban poor groups said the moratorium on demolition that Interior Sec. Jesse Robredo has issued is an initial and brief victory for communities in Metro Manila. But the fight is far from over.
“The urban poor communities in Metro Manila have more time now to further strengthen their barricades while communities nationwide prepare for future battles,” Carlito Badion, Kadamay Vice Chair, said.
Robredo has recently announced a moratorium on the demolition of urban poor communities until the government would be able to come up with a concrete plan.
“I have directed the NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) to conduct a review on all policies and legal orders regarding cases of demolition. There should be a ‘pre-demolition meeting’ among all stakeholders to prevent violence such as what transpired at the Silverio compound in Parañaque City,” Robredo said in a report.
The moratorium was issued a few days after the bloody and violent demolition in Silverio Compound in Parañaque City. It led to the killing of 19-year-old Arnel Leonor, who was merely standing near the center island of Sucat Road when the police fired indiscriminately on the residents who were protecting their homes.
Youth groups said that while the moratorium is good news, the decision is late and not enough. “Arnel Leonor could still be living right now if this administration had decided earlier to suspend all demolitions,” Dianne Solmayor, Anakbayan-NCR Spokesperson, said.
“Do the people need to sacrifice their life first before the government would issue a decision?” Solmayor said.
March 2011 recommendations
This is not the first time that President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III has issued a moratorium on demolition of urban poor communities in Metro Manila.
After the violent demolition in San Roque, Quezon City on September 23, 2010, Aquino then declared a nationwide moratorium and the formation of a DILG Technical Working Group, which would supposedly look into the problems that urban poor communities are confronting.
Robredo’s report which he submitted to Aquino on March 15, 2011, recognized the failures of the off-city relocation sites, where families could hardly earn a living.
This has resulted to: “a) some people being unable to pay their monthly amortization dues, thus, affecting the collection rates and cost recovery mechanisms of the programs; and b) some families deciding to migrate back into the cities, and once again live in informal settlers area.”
“Nothing actually happened with Robredo’s recommendations to President Aquino from the TWG results in March 2011 as they were never implemented. Even Robredo seems to have deserted his own policy recommendations,” Badion said, “The Secretary, for all his wisdom, should know that the review he ordered is simply for naught unless there is a significant change in the government’s framework and policies,” Badion said.
Badion added that Robredo’s action was merely to order the review of policies and procedures during a demolition. “But the problem as to why the urban poor risk their lives and limbs to prevent demolition is not being addressed.”
What needs to be addressed
Since the suspension will still expire in time, Kabataan Partylist second nominee Mark Louie Aquino said demolitions might end up in another bloodshed like what happened in Silverio compound.
“The Aquino administration should recognize that the Public Private Partnership program or PPP is behind the massive demolitions across the country and it should be stopped,” Aquino said.
“Not only should this administration junk PPP, Aquino should end all demolitions and award the land to the people. All those who lifted a finger in the execution of such brutality against the people and the death of Arnel Leonor should be seriously punished,” Solmayor said.
Badion said that the unrest of urban poor communities will continue for as long as the government consider them as polluters, causing congestion and depreciation of land value and preventing the so-called development projects.