Urban poor groups are calling for a stop to the demolition of informal settler communities, and to hold former President Benigno Aquino III accountable for the destruction and violence.
By KAREN ANN MACALALAD
MANILA – The term of President Benigno Aquino III has officially ended on June 30, but not for some urban poor communities who have suffered demolition and displacement threats under his watch.
The home of Jojo Namias is one of those 134 demolished in Apollo Street, Tandang Sora village, Quezon City on June 16. The police told them during daybreak that they would conduct their anti-criminality drive Oplan Galugad in the community, but this eventually led to the destruction of the residents’ houses, he said.
The sudden demolition in Apollo left 19 injured, including a pregnant woman and a senior citizen, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) reported. The group said there was no clear eviction notice or court order presented to the residents.
The families were also told that their houses were fire hazards and had no building permits. They were not given a relocation site and left with no choice but to stay on the sidewalks, since the land where their houses stood is alleged to be private property, Namias explained.
“However, when we checked at the Land Management Bureau, if someone really owned the area, it has been abandoned,” said Namias, who has been residing in Apollo for 34 years now. He added that they were earlier offered P27,000 ($570) each to vacate the area, but they refused.
The clearing of Apollo Street is only one among the numerous cases reported under Aquino’s last days. Around 1.4 million Filipinos are targeted by evictions from the 14 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects approved by the Aquino administration, said KADAMAY.
The group reported the heavy-handed and violent demolition in Culiat village in Quezon City, resulting to three residents hospitalized and 10 injured, and hundreds losing their homes since the first attempt at demolition on March 8.
The demolition in Dagat-dagatan, Caloocan City on June 27 also turned out to be violent, where more than 300 families were forcefully evicted. The Supreme Court sided with the original owner of the land, seizing the 7,000-square meter area originally assigned by the National Housing Authority as relocation site of informal settlers in 1983.
Eviction threats hound other communities including Sitio San Roque in North Triangle village, Quezon City, where 500 households will be affected. Kadamay cited the Quezon City Central Business District project as the culprit, which aims to make the city attractive to investments and large business groups.
“San Roque residents refused the relocation site in Pandi, Bulacan because the area is dangerous and no jobs are available,” said Estrelieta Bagasbas, Kadamay vice-chairperson.
Meanwhile, around 500 families of San Isidro near the Philippine Children’s Medical Center were also offered P5,000 ($106) and grocery items to self-demolish, she added. Five already took the offer and left even without relocation.
In the rural areas, around 600 Patungan fisherfolks and peasants in Maragondon, Cavite have formed a barricade after a family named Virata claimed ownership of the land. The community have been existent since the 1800s and its residents who face displacement are not offered relocation, said Diego Torres, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (Bayan-ST) spokesperson.
The demolition was intended to give way to a hotel to be constructed for Pico de Loro tourists. “A road was constructed penetrating the mountains to increase the land’s value and become more accessible to visitors,” Torres said.
A total of 21, 516 individuals were reported to be victims of demolitions from July 2010 to September 2015, said human rights group Karapatan. In a separate report, Kadamay recorded 21 demolition-related deaths under Aquino.
Kadamay Chairperson Gloria Arellano denounced the recent demolitions, as these blatantly aimed to send the poor into further hardship. “Little or no regard is shown for those who cannot avail of and afford the supposed ‘development’ they peddle,” she said in a statement.
Residents to be displaced earn a living from driving tricycles and jeepneys, sewing of rags and working for construction sites, Bagasbas added. “We hope that after the 100 days of President Rodrigo Duterte, he would do something to stop the demolitions, or provide decent housing in cases that there will be.”
Bagasbas also wanted accountability from Aquino, public officials and individuals behind the violent dispersal of urban poor communities, imprisonment of innocent people, Kidapawan killings and Typhoon Yolanda tragedy.