“We are here to show you that you are not alone in this violent and sad eviction. We will strive to do what we can for justice, for humaneness and for the fulfillment of God’s will to happen,” Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Bishops and church people expressed their support for the residents of North Triangle whose houses were recently demolished.
“The church people are here to show that we feel your pain. We are in solidarity with you,” Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said in a press conference, Jan. 30.
On Jan. 27, some 1,000 police, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) and members of demolition team destroyed some 250 homes in North Triangle purportedly to give way to the 11.3-meter road widening program. Police fired canisters of teargas to quell the opposition of residents who tried to defend their homes by hurling stones and bottles against the police.
Residents earlier expressed their suspicions that the so-called road widening project is merely a way of opening the area for the Quezon City Central Business District, a 256-hectare project led by the Ayala Land, Inc. and the National Housing Authority (NHA).
Both the Catholic and Protestant leaders spoke for the affected poor families. “We are calling on the government to recognize their responsibility and obligation to serve its people, such as the people of San Roque, who are most in need,” Iñiguez said. “We should always put preference to the poor.”
In a statement, the Church People-Urban Poor Solidarity reminded the government of pronouncements of Pope Francis who was quoted as saying “focus on the poor, those who are suffering and the outcasts of society.”
Bishop Elmer Bolocon of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum told reporters the government should be held responsible for the demolition of homes in North Triangle.
“They are the ones who should be taking care of the people. If they are not going to fulfill that responsibility, then they are not following the will of God,” Bolocon added.
Fr. Marlon Lacal, executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), said that every time they would join dialogues with government officials on threats of demolition, they would be told the government has no control over the demolition since tho persons involved are private claimants.
“But they are the ones who have control over the military and the police. Why are they allowing (these private claimants) to use their resources?” Lacal said. He added that the very same government the people elected has also sentenced them to death.
The Church People – Urban Poor Solidarity said the government should be held accountable for its “grave misuse of authority, totally brutal and devoid of any slightest sense of decency expected of civil servants.”
“We are here to show you that you are not alone in this violent and sad eviction. We will strive to do what we can for justice, for humaneness and for the fulfillment of God’s will to happen,” Iñiguez said.
He added that the people of San Roque should not lose hope.
Iñiguez said, “This is not the end. We expect that this would open the hearts and minds of the people in the government and the rest of the people to show genuine solidarity with them so that all of us would benefit from the graces that we receive from God.”
Hundreds of families whose homes were demolished constructed makeshift shanties in the center island along Agham Road.
Mildred Bibera, 24, one of those who built houses along the road’s center island, told Bulatlat.com they have nowhere to go. She said that the NHA had not offered them any relocation and the local government has no plans for the displaced families.
Bibera added that her children are having difficulties. They have no access to electricity and water. They also do not have toilets.
She said her children were traumatized by the demolition. “They would cry whenever they see a policeman,” she said.
Three days since the demolition, NHA officials held a dialogue with the affected families.
Estrellita Bagasbas of the September 23 Movement said that today, NHA sent more than a hundred trucks to pick up residents and bring them to government relocation areas.
“Right now they are prioritizing those who are ‘good census’ and qualified for a relocation program. But yesterday (Jan. 30), we were told that even those who are not qualified may also avail of the relocation,” Bagasbas said.
However, she added her reservations about the offer. She said that in the past, there were times when residents were brought to relocation areas only to find out that houses are yet to be built.
“We want to know if there really are houses there,” Bagasbas said.
Initially, the September 23 Alliance Movement would have wanted to stay and to rebuild their houses in sitio San Roque in order to prevent the dislocation from jobs and livelihood and disruption of classes for school children.
In a statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay blamed the Public-Private Partnership Partnership for demolitions in favor of big business interests. She said the Aquino government “has a bigger part of the blame because the PPP is its core program.”
“The people who lost their homes were already deprived by the government’s failure to provide decent housing programs. Now, they have become victims of human rights violations for rightfully asserting their rights to their homes and properties,” Palabay said.
As of December 31, 2013, human rights group Karapatan has documented 13,528 victims of demolitions and forced eviction under President Aquino. There are 13 cases of extra-judicial killings related to urban poor struggles.
“The trend is clear. This administration is sweeping off the urban poor communities to accommodate big businesses in the Metro. It will use any kind of force to quell people’s assertions or opposition,” Palabay said.