A United Nations agency has responded to the complaint by urban poor victims who suffered from “one of the most violent demolitions” in the country.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A United Nations agency is now looking into the violent demolition of urban poor settlers in Corazon de Jesus village in San Juan.
The urban poor group Defend Job Philippines said they received a letter from the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) saying that it has registered the complaint filed by residents of Corazon de Jesus.
The OHCHR letter, dated Feb. 13, was addressed to the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, one of the groups who filed the complaint in behalf of the residents in March 2013.
“This is a big and positive step in our campaign to expose the anti-poor policies of the Aquino administration. It goes to show his lack of credibility to carry out projects that would uplift the welfare of the Filipino people,” Carlito Badion of urban poor group Kadamay told Bulatlat.com.
As part of its mechanism, the United Nations has sent the Philippine government a copy of the complaint along with a request to provide any information about it within six months. Complainants, in turn, have the option to comment on the government’s response.
The Corazon de Jesus residents said that during the series of violent demolitions by the San Juan City government in 2012, the Philippine government denied the residents various political and civil rights enshrined in the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, to which the Philippine government is a signatory since 1986.
Among these violations are: the absence of judicial remedy for the individuals, deprivation of life, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and denial of every person’s right to be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference in his or her home.
Residents of Corazon de Jesus filed the complaint through Defend Job Philippines and international rights group Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Western New England University of Law International Human Rights Clinic.
There are 73 residents who signed the complaint.
The urban poor complainants said the current justice system and laws have provided no remedy to residents who have become victims of forced evictions. Instead, they said, resisting residents and their supporters face harassments and arbitrary arrests for seeking judicial remedy at the domestic level.
In fact, the demolition of homes in Corazon de Jesus back in 2012 was dubbed as “among the most violent” in a previous Bulatlat.com report. Water cannon and a bulldozer were used to quell the resisting residents, who, for their part, threw stones and bottles against the demolition team.
Members of Special Weapons and Tactics aimed their long fire arms against the resisting residents, firing warning shots.
Police also used teargas against residents, with children first to be suffocated.
At that time, the construction of “White House-like” San Juan city hall was nearly finished. The demolition of some 300 homes gave way to its parking lot.
The complainants stressed that development should be well-grounded on the respect for human rights and should not lead to a direr situation for urban dwellers.
Badion said it would take a long time for the United Nations to look into the case. “I hope that while they are also looking into it, a moratorium on demolition would be implemented.”