Saturday, March 25, 2006

Protesting Evicted Southrail Families to be evicted from CHR compound

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For Immediate Release
April 11, 2006

Protesting Evicted Southrail Families to be evicted from CHR compound

Some 20 railway families from San Antonio Makati City have camped out and built cardboard lean-tos at the compound of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) along the Commonwealth Avenue to press the government to immediately address their concerns. They at first camped out in front of the National Housing Authority (NHA), along the Elliptical Road in Quezon City on April 5 but on April 6 they were threatened with dispersal by Quezon City policemen and so decided to transfer to the CHR compound.

Their houses were demolished by the NHA and the the Local Inter-Agency Committee (LIAC) to give way for the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP). Contrary to the government's position, they assert that they have the right to be given relocation. Now their rights to express their grievances and to seek redress are also being denied.

“Kami ay biktima ng rehabilitasyon ng PNR na di nabigyan ng relokasyon. Para kaming mga hayop na itinapon ng NHA sa kung saan-saan. Para di maharas ang aming mga kasama sa bangis ng mga pulis, naging atrasan namin ang CHR upang maging pansamantalang kanlungan habang inilalaban namin ang aming karapatan sa paninirahan” said Glenn Loloy, leader of Samahan ng Maralita sa San Antonio (SAMASA).

Until today, these families have been enduring hunger and sickness being exposed to the natural elements. Among them are 4 babies, 14 children, 3 pregnant women and 2 elderly. The poor families fear another forced eviction by the UP Police if National Capital Region CHR Commissioner Wildhen Soriano will not consider their petition to temporarily stay on the CHR grounds while looking for a staging area.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that helps thousands of poor railway families facing evictions, condemned the government’s insensitivity to the needs of the evicted families. “The inhuman eviction being practiced by the NHA, Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which guarantees everyone the right to adequate housing,” said Teodoro Añaña, coordinator of the Eviction Watch of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights. "It violates the international principle that evictions should not render anyone homeless. Since the railway project is a foreign funded project it is covered also by the guidelines on international cooperation between nations, in this case, the Philippines and South Korea, which prohibit massive forced evictions."

The Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), a international treaty that obliges the Philippines to respect, protect and fulfill the right to adequate housing. Furthermore, the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) conform with the guidelines of the United Nations on eviction process which states that a relocation/resettlement plan should be prepared and implemented which allocates sufficient resources to ensure that those affected are fairly compensated and rehabilitated to at least their former socio-economic level.

More than a hundred railway families were forcibly evicted by the NHA, PNR and the LIAC last April 4 in Barangays San Antonio, Magallanes and Pio del Pilar in Makati City. Hundreds of demolition crews escorted by policemen implemented the demolition activity. Some families have chosen to accept a distant relocation at the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao Laguna despite its disgraceful condition and lack of livelihood opportunities. However, many of them were tagged by the NHA as ‘disqualified’ for relocation because they have failed to secure necessary documents. -30-

NIGHTMARE AT SOUTHVILLE BLAMED ON VP DE CASTRO

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For Immediate Release
March 29, 2006

NIGHTMARE AT SOUTHVILLE BLAMED ON VP DE CASTRO

Troubles for thousands of railway families began January 2006 when their houses along the railway tracks in Makati City were demolished to give way for the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP). With no income and alternative livelihood, thousands are stuck, facing the specter of starvation on their relocation site at the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao Laguna.

Finding the Southville unbearable many families have gone back to Metro Manila and live as informal dwellers once more. "Nagiging ghost town na ang Southville dahil gutom na yung mga tao dito," (Southville has turned into a ghost town because the people here go hungry) said Francis P. Reyes of Block 44, Lot 31.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that works with the poor railway families, has conducted a study about evictions. According to UPA, the expensive distant relocation program does not work and has tremendous effects. Family income drops by up to 50% and they can only recover economically after 5 years.

"The government has been using from the past to the present the get-the-job-done at any cost approach, even at the expense of people's rights enshrined in national and international laws in all its relocation activities. It hasn't worked! We should try the path of good, pro-poor and humane relocation," the UPA said.

The UPA supports the affected families’ demand that the relocation site should be equipped with the basic services such as potable water, electricity, schools and clinics as mandated by national and international laws before they are transferred to the relocation sites.

Without potable water in Southville, the poor people have to buy 5 gallons of distilled water worth P35. Some would travel about 50 kilometers to fetch water from Makati City.

The public face of the relocation program is Vice president Noli de Castro, who also chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). The Vice President recently visited Southville together with the members of the Local Inter-Agency Committee (LIAC).

The residents said it was hard to get near to VP de Castro and it seemed like he was in a hurry during the visit. “Nung pumunta s’ya rito, nakita n’ya yung mga tao pumapalakpak, tuwang-tuwa na s’ya (de Castro). Pero di n’ya alam ang tunay na damdamin, nakangiti pero luha ang nasa likod no’n,” (When he visited us, he saw the people clapping, that made him [de Castro] happy. But he never noticed the feelings, behind those smiles was tears) commented Reyes.

“May peligro rito, kasi malapit kami sa dumpsite. Maraming lamok at langaw,” (There is a great danger here because we are near the dumpsite. There are a lot of mosquitoes and flies) complained Reyes.

With the loan provided by the National Housing Authority (NHA), the beneficiaries purchased construction materials that were overpriced and of inferior quality. “Mahal at manipis ang yero nila, matigas pa nga ang tansan ng softdrinks,” (The tin roof cost too much and is very thin, the cap of softdrinks is even harder) Reyes said. "Pag pusa nga ang lumakad dyan kapag gabi, akala mo tao, kaya ang sabi nila dito, may aswang!" (When the cat walks on it at night, it seems like a human that is why people here said there is a monster).

“Nung nasa riles pa kami, kahit papaano, may hanapbuhay kami. Delikado nga yung tren doon, pero p’wede ka namang mag-ingat. Mas delikado rito, di ka nga masasagasaan ng tren, unti-unti ka namang pinapatay!” (When we were still at the railway tracks, in any case, we have livelihood. The train is dangerous but we can take care of it. It is even dangerous here, surely the train will never hit us, but we’ve been put to a slow death) said Clemente family, one of the 2,754 evicted families. -30-

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