“Where will they get the money for bail? This is further oppression of the poor whose only fault is to fight for the land they have been living on for more than 30 years.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Detained residents of Apollo street, Tandang Sora, Quezon City may be spending more time behind bars as a court set their bail at P14,000 ($279) each, on trespassing and grave coercion charges.
Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) called the Quezon City government “heartless against the homeless,” as the bail was “insurmountable for an ordinary urban poor Filipino.” Forty-three Apollo residents – eight of whom are elderly – remain in detention in Camp Caringal in Quezon City, while 17 minors had been released earlier.
Police arrested 57 Apollo residents on April 3, a day after they attempted to reclaim their community from where they were violently demolished in June last year, and has since been left idle. Kadamay said it was the biggest mass arrest of political activists under the Duterte administration.
In an inquest proceeding on April 4, the residents were charged with trespassing and grave coercion.
“Where will they get the money for bail? This is further oppression of the poor whose only fault is to fight for the land they have been living on for more than 30 years,” said Kadamay secretary general Carlito Badion.
He said the Quezon City government is determined to keep the Apollo residents in jail, and has set the bail “unusually high” for political reasons. “Essentially, they are being charged with the crime of homelessness and the current bail aims to keep them in captivity for it,” said Badion.
Unable to even make both ends meet, many urban poor can hardly avail of the government’s housing program, and even renting a house is beyond their capacity.
Citing data by the President Commission for the Urban Poor, Kadamay said Metro Manila has the highest average increase in housing prices in Asia. A low-cost subsidized housing unit can cost 3.8 times the yearly income of a minimum wage earner.
“Housing costs, even subsidized ones, are impossible for the poor. This is a reality we have to face. Mounting the kind of bail against the residents of Apollo will only do harm,” he said.
Badion hoped that President Duterte would look into the case of the 43 detainees. Kadamay recently scored victory when government agreed to process their occupation of some 5,000 idle government housing units in Bulacan since March 8. This week, Duterte agreed to grant the idle housing units to Kadamay members, as he promised soldiers and police men – the supposed awardees of the idle houses – that government will build better units for them.
Badion also mentioned the concluded GRP-NDFP peace talks, which Kadamay has supported to resolve widespread poverty, the root of the armed conflict in the country.
“At its core, the case of Tandang Sora is one of extreme poverty, homelessness and how the residents banded together for political action and asserting their rights,” he said.