At Camp Karingal, the police did not even bother feeding the 57 Apollo residents it ‘arrested.’
BY MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Entering their original home is trespassing?
This Tuesday, April 4, the saga of the dispossessed residents of Apollo community, a piece of land in Quezon City whose claimant, Reynaldo Giuab, has twice lost his case in court, continues to anger the members and supporters of urban poor group Kadamay.
The residents had been forcibly driven out of the said land by the Quezon City government under Mayor Herbert Bautista some nine months ago, not because of any legal claimant to the land but because the city government declared the area a fire hazard. Kadamay said the declaration was arbitrary and a mere excuse to demolish the community.
The residents attest that there had been no recorded incidences of fire or ownership to the community land. Kadamay blamed the Quezon City government, Mayor Herbert Bautista and the spurious claimants to the land for having worked together against the locals.
After the residents were driven out of the community nine months ago, the city authorities padlocked the entrance to the area and proceeded to smash some of the houses there.
But it did not offer a relocation or viable offer of help to the affected residents, who opted to live in the nearby sidewalks and city gutter. This way, they reasoned, their children can continue to go to the same schools and they can still be near their places of work.
However, another threat of eviction this week, this time from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), forced them to re-occupy their housing area, Kadamay said in a statement. Arellano said some of the residents were offered relocation in Cagayan Valley, a province that is 10 hours’ trip away from Quezon City.
Between another forced eviction and uncertainty, the residents started reclaiming the piece of land on Sunday, April 2. But barely a day later the police arrived. They threatened the members of Kadamay, invited them for a talk, but brought them to the police station and a day later filed charges against most (41) of them. Of these 57, sixteen are minors and eight are seniors aged 64 to 83.
The “Apollo 57” were brought to the Quezon City Police District in Camp Karingal where, by early evening on April 3, a protest action by supporters unfolded at the gates. The urban poor supporters demanded the freedom of the 57 Kadamay members.
Estrellita “Inday” Bagasbas, an elderly leader of Kadamay, told Bulatlat the 57 “arrested” residents were forced to sleep together on the floor at Camp Karingal, without mats or cardboard at least to shield themselves from the cold, hard floor.
Some of the arrested and detained minors were bound to graduate from their schools this Tuesday, but despite their pleas, the police did not let them off.
Bagasbas said the residents were illegally arrested. “Some were not in the compound at the time of the arrest, and the police also had no warrant of arrest,” Bagasbas explained.
At Camp Karingal, the police did not even bother feeding the 57 arrested Apollo residents, Bagasbas added. She said that the children were already crying from hunger, some from separation to their parents, but the police allowed food to be brought in only around midnight. It was a non-government advocacy group, the Task Force Urban Council, which brought the food.
Next morning, April 4, Bagasbas said the “arrested” residents were supposed to have been brought to the Quezon City Hall, but the city government reportedly avoided a likely commotion with the protesters so the inquest was held instead at Camp Karingal.
Still, the members of Kadamay and supporters from Kilusang Mayo Uno and Health Alliance for Democracy held a picket in front of the city hall.
“Baliktad ang hustisya ng pamahalaan at nina Bistek Bautista,” (The concept of justice by the government and Mayor Bistek Bautista is lopsided) said Arellano of Kadamay.
The group traced how, from the time the residents were evicted, forced to live in city gutters, threatened by another eviction and forced to reoccupy their padlocked, smashed up former homes, “nowhere in this timeline were the poor offered any support,” Arellano said. Instead of victimizing and vilifying the poor at every turn, she called on the public to join their calls for support and justice, for freedom of the detained residents and the rightful granting to them of the Apollo community.