“This system that uses the police to hurt people to protect the interest of the few should change.” – North Triangle resident
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Leaders and supporters of residents of North Triangle in Quezon City were charged with indirect assault emanating from the scuffle between residents and the police during the attempted demolition of homes last July 1, 2013.
“I am a bit afraid and nervous because this is the first time that I was ever charged with a crime. But I know that this is part of our struggle. I am firm on my stand that we did not cause any harm on the police during the demolition. It was they who instigated the scuffle that erupted (last July 1),” Estrelieta Bagasbas, a resident of North Triangle and one of those who were charged, told Bulatlat.com.
On July 1, the police arrived near North Triangle, which pushed residents to barricade their homes. Their community has been a target for demolition to give way to the 256-hectare project, the Quezon City Central Business District, which would reportedly put Quezon City at the forefront of foreign investments.
This, however, would result in demolishing thousands of urban poor dwellers who have been residing in the area for decades. An off-city relocation program has been offered to the residents but they resisted, citing the lack of livelihood and access to social services in the resettlement area.
That day, Bagasbas said, the Quezon City local government was about to demolish 500 homes to give way to the 11.3 meter road-widening project along Agham Road. In a previous interview with Bulatlat.com, Bagasbas said leaders were still negotiating with the police and two government employees who introduced themselves as members of the Commission on Human Rights when Police Superintendent Pedro Sanchez hit a resident manning the barricade.
Bagasbas said two members of SWAT also cocked their guns at her but “I told them that they were not supposed to carry guns near our barricade. But one of them said we were causing trouble. They told us we were barricading the street even if there was no demolition. But that is not true. We received another notice of demolition then, which expired last June 30.”
Aside from Bagasbas, fellow resident Jocy Lopez, Kadamay secretary general Carlito Badion and Arnolfo Anoos of the All UP Workers Union received the subpoena.
“It was not even sent to our homes. They delivered the subpoena to a nearby store,” Bagasbas said.
Anoos believes that these cases are meant to discourage residents from resisting demolition of homes. He said that it is just a form of harassment against the leaders and their supporters.
“I heard about the demolition on the news and decided to go here to show my support to the people of North Triangle,” he told Bulatlat.com.
Anoos, an employee of the University of the Philippines – Diliman for 33 years, said it is the responsibility of a government employee to serve the people.
“We took an oath and swore to serve them,” he said, “They are the ones who are paying for our salaries. This is our obligation to them.”
So when he arrived during the demolition operations in North Triangle, Anoos said, he was very disappointed to see police officers dragging residents as if they were animals. He added that he saw one policeman wearing civilian clothes arresting one of the residents. He then asked the policeman to release the resident and later on introduced himself to Sanchez.
He added that he told Sanchez that what the police were doing is “unprofessional.” Sanchez, for his part, said they are only doing their job to ensure peace in the community.
“But was it really peaceful? A lot were getting hurt,” he said.
Anoos said this was the only “confrontation” he had with Sanchez that may have caused his inclusion in the charge sheet.
Residents responded by filing an administrative case against Sanchez before the Office of the Ombudsman last July 30. Cases include oppression, grave abuse of discretion, incompetence and conduct prejudicial to public service.
Myrna Dalida, the resident who filed the complaint, said she was merely there to check what was going on when he suddenly heard Sanchez shout, “Go! Arrest them,” which, she said, prompted the police to start hitting the residents with their truncheon.
Dalida, in her complaint, said she managed to run but Sanchez pushed her and hit her with his truncheon. “As a result, I sustained an injury on my left leg as shown in my medical certificate issued by the Quezon City General Hospital dated July 1, 2013,” she said.
Bagasbas said she is hoping this case would give Sanchez and the rest of the police force a lesson and not to harass residents of North Triangle.
“This system that uses the police to hurt people to protect the interest of the few should change,” she said.