The demolition team, accompanied by a large police contingent, arrived without any prior notice to preempt the preparations of the community to resist the demolition of their homes.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Anabel Millena, 38, is clueless on what would happen to her family in the coming days. If worse comes to worst, she, her husband and their three children might live for a while along the center island of BIR road. Not far from where they were sitting, their house was being demolished.
“We are sad. I do not have the strength to lift a finger. If only I could lie down for a while,” Millena said, “I have lost my appetite to eat. Besides, we also do not have food to eat.”
Early morning of Oct. 16, some 200 members of the police and demolition team arrived at BIR road to demolish the homes of the urban poor community in the area. Local government officials admitted, in a television news report, that they intentionally did not inform the residents of the scheduled demolition so that they would not be able to prepare for it.
The demolition of their homes would supposedly give way to a road widening project, which residents belied. Eduardo Villaruz, president of Basena, a local organization, belied the pronouncement, saying that it is highly improbable that they would be expanding just one side of the road.
“Is it logical to have one side of the road with five lanes and the other with only two?” Villaruz added. Across the homes that were being demolished is the office of the National Telecommunications Commission.
“They are really going to use their power to get rid of the poor,” Villaruz said.
Urban poor group Kadamay said the demolition of homes along BIR road is an “’overkill’ operation by elements of the Philippine National Police. The PNP has shown a ‘grave abuse of authority.’” The number of police, they added, has easily outnumbered the residents who barricaded their community.
Carlito Badion, vice chair of Kadamay and convenor of Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon, said they received reports that 10 policemen from every precinct were required to join the demolition team.
Two residents, Leo Espiritu and Ramil Jamolon, who was with his five-month old baby, were arrested during the demolition.
Badion said no notice of demolition was served to the residents. Instead they used a notice of eviction dated April 2011. “The QC LGU has been mentioning about a notice of eviction given last April the validity of which has long lapsed,” he added.
The group added that newly installed Interior secretary Mar Roxas is “nothing compared to the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.”
“We are very disgusted about the silence of Secretary Roxas with regards to the violent demolition of homes along BIR Road. It seems he had just issued a demolition moratorium in North Triangle last October 1, Roxas’ first day in office as DILG secretary, just for popularity sake,” Badion said.
Right after the demolition of homes in Silverio Compound in Parañaque City, at the time that Robredo was still secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, he said they would refrain from giving assistance to demolition of homes “while the policies and law on demolitions are being reviewed.”
“We demand that Roxas issues a statement against the brutality of the police and the illegalities committed by the QC LGU against the residents,” Badion said.
Rodriguez relocation, last option?
Millena said relocating to Rodriguez is her last option. All her three children are attending schools in nearby public schools.
“We observed how my neighbors who were relocated to Rodriguez came back here,” Millena said, “They go back here because life is difficult there.”
She said the same thing would probably happen to them if they decide to move to Rodriguez. Her husband Celestio works a security guard in Quezon City. If they are going to be relocated, there would be no more money left for their family to spend because her husband’s meagre salary is just enough for his fares alone.
Millena is also concerned with the lack of social services available at the relocation sites. She said there is a story spreading in their community that one of their neighbors who moved to Kasiglahan Village, a government’s relocation site in Rodriguez, died without getting hospital treatment.
“It could be true because there is no hospital there, only a funeral parlor and a cemetery. They even said that the man was brought to the funeral parlor still alive. They would not accept him because he was still breathing. He reportedly died there,” she said.
Badion, for his part, said the local government of Rodriguez has already “ordered the closure of the said relocation to new relocates from Quezon City and City of Manila, citing the danger in the flood-prone relocation sites.”
Kadamay estimated that more than 234,000 families in Quezon City alone are facing threats of losing their homes in the coming years as its city government implements its “zero-informal settler” program. With this, Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon considered Quezon City as “the worst place to live for the urban poor.”
Urban poor communities will gather in a summit in Quezon City. “It’s about time for the urban poor in Quezon City to unite against the anti-poor policies of the Herbert Bautista administration,” Sisel Cari, chair of Kadamay Quezon City, said.
Kadamay called on President Aquino to treat the urban poor as human beings. “Aside from fighting for their right to housing, the urban poor are also confronting killings and harassments among their ranks.”