Trigger warning: Violence
By JUSTIN UMALI
STA. CRUZ, Laguna – At least three were injured and more were arrested following a clash between residents of a Cavite fishing village and demolition team, January 13.
Some 1,200 residents of Patungan Cove, barangay. Sta. Mercedes, Maragondon, Cavite province were met with at least 1,000 members of the demolition team, accompanied by elements of the Cavite police, Bureau of Fire Protection, and private security firm Seraph Security Agency.
According to initial reports by Save Patungan Now Movement, armed elements of the demolition team opened fire at least 12 times at the residents who set up barricades at entry points. Three residents, Neslie Lantar, Erick Dominado, and Ace Amul suffered gunshot wounds.
Dominado was rushed to a hospital in Trece Martires after being shot and beaten up by members of the demolition team.
Four more residents, Risa Sia, Cathlyn Medin, and Dan Raphael Sadiasa, and one known as “Kalbo” were assaulted, handcuffed, and detained by police. An additional report by Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan stated that some of the residents were assaulted by “no less than 300 members of the demolition team,” before they were handcuffed and detained.
Save Patungan Now said that the demolition team came from Dasmarñas and Tanza in Cavite, with some coming from as far as Tondo, Manila and Navotas. They were allegedly paid P650 (US$12.74) each and were led to believe that they were going to a “clean-up drive” at a nearby resort.
Patungan Cove is now totally blockaded by land and sea. Save Patungan Now described the situation as “like a warzone.” Residents attempted to bring one of the injured to the Cavite Provincial Hospital in Maragondon via boat, but were intercepted by elements of the police, and was then also detained.
Patungan Cove is part of the 8,650 hectares of Hacienda Looc, a land estate being claimed by the Sy clan through its Manila Southcoast Development Corporation since the 1980s. In Patungan, MSDC is collaborating with MTV Realty Corporation, owned by Maria Theresa Virata. MSDC and MTV Realty have plans to develop eco-tourism projects in the area, taking advantage of Patungan Cove’s natural resources.
MSDC was able to obtain land titles in Looc by using loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law’s provisions, which do not include vast swathes of Hacienda Looc in its scope. Since then, there has been an ongoing struggle between the fisherfolk living in the area and large corporations.
This is not the first time demolition teams have attempted to drive out the residents of Patungan. As early as 2014, attempts to drive out the residents of Patungan were met with resistance from the community – with some clashes turning violent.
Susan Agner, local resident and spokesperson of Save Patungan Now, is adamant in asserting their rights. “We will not allow them to destroy our houses,” she said in a phone interview with Inquirer.net. “Our ancestors and our present families have been living here for so many years.”
Other organizations have similarly aired their support to the residents of Patungan while issuing condemnations against the violence instigated by the demolition teams and police forces. Peasant women alliance Amihan called for an “immediate and independent probe on this state of violence and hold the perpetators accountable.”
“[The police and military] are putting first the forced eviction of poor families in the countryside to pave the way for Virata and Sy’s business interests, even though we are in the middle of a health crisis,” Amihan National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Cavite, meanwhile, is holding Maragondon Mayor Rey Rillo and Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla accountable. The group asserts that Rillo “turned his back on the people of Maragondon and his responsibility to protect its citizens.”
The group also noted that Remulla’s passivity in the demolition is “doubly suspect” given his recent statement of support for presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Maria Theresa Virata is the granddaughter of Cesar Virata, finance czar under the Marcos dictatorship.