Monday, May 1, 2006

URBAN POOR VS. BAYANI FERNANDO


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2006

URBAN POOR VS. BAYANI FERNANDO

St. Thomas More Law Center, the legal unit of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), with the help of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) and Economic & Social Rights Legal Advocacy Center, filed a petition before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) to ask for Prohibition with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against respondents [Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando and Metro Manila Council] last April 28, 2005.

The hearing on the application for preliminary injunction was conducted today, May 2, 2006 (which started around 9:00 AM) at the Branch 221 of the QC RTC. The plaintiff’s counsel, Atty. Michael Vincent S. Gaddi, presented Nora Balbin, (petitioner/witness) for a direct examination to the presiding judge Hon. Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes. “The witness justified her affidavit well,” said Atty. Gaddi. The defendant’s counsel, Atty. Magtanggol M. Castro, asked the presiding judge to move the cross examination on June 23, 2006.

The hearing aims to establish Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) entitlement, illegality of demolition and the urgency of situations as to merit issuance of preliminary injunction to forestall any further acts of eviction and demolition, and barring the respondents from using MMDA resolutions 03-96 and 02-28.

On May 28, 2003, at the height of typhoon Chedeng, respondent MMDA personnel, without prior notice as required by law, announced to the petitioners (informal dwellers located along Quezon Avenue in 787 Barangay Sta. Cruz, Quezon City) that it was going to demolish their houses claiming that their houses are within the ten-meter easement as provided in the questioned resolutions.

There and then, using a back hoe and other heavy equipment, MMDA personnel did demolish, destroy and dismantle the houses of the petitioners consisting of fifty houses and structures exposing the petitioners, their families, especially the children to the harsh elements.

The second demolition happened on January 21, 2005. Uniformed MMDA personnel arrived at the scene accompanied by police officers. Just like the first demolition, no sufficient notice was given to the residents whose houses were demolished. The police officers then ordered the MMDA personnel to commence with the demolition and they were able to dismantle seven households. Thereafter, said MMDA personnel even set the dismantled housing materials, clothing and other personal belongings on fire. Likewise, no representative of the local government unit was present to observe the conduct of the demolition.

“The law in this case being MMDA Resolutions 03-96 and 02-28 issued by the Metro Manila Council have been used, abused, misused and overused by the respondents to justify the vicious action taken against the poor. The unjust and inhuman manner of demolition and eviction being practiced by the respondents violates significant constitutional mandates enshrined in the Social Justice provisions of Article XIII, and doesn’t comply with the Section 28 of the UDHA, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),” said Teodoro AƱana, coordinator of the Eviction Watch of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR).

The Supreme Court (SC) has spelled out the limits of MMDA’s authority last April 15, 2005. The SC has ruled that MMDA is an administrative agency tasked to coordinate development projects in Metro Manila. The MMDA, according to the SC, is not empowered to pass ordinances and resolutions, and is not vested with even the barest iota of police power. Hence, all MMDA projects, especially those that impose penalties or fines but are not supported by ordinances can be questioned in court. Persons who were victimized by MMDA operations can sue the agency for damages.

“The MMDA, in enacting Resolutions 03-96 and 02-28, acted beyond its designated functions as clearly stated in its charter R.A. 7924. For more than four long years, the respondents, under the pretense of “enforcing the law” and in an arrogant and highhanded manner, have disregard due process, ignored legal protections and trampled upon the human rights of the poor, underprivileged and marginalized – the most helpless and least empowered members of Filipino society. The petition filed against the respondents before the QC RTC aims to remedy this injustice” said Atty. Bienvenido A. Salinas 2nd, coordinator of the UPA-St. Thomas More Law Center.

The petitioners respectfully pray that after due hearing a Preliminary Injunction be issued barring the respondents from enforcing the questioned resolutions. And judgment be rendered declaring MMDA Resolutions 03-96 and 02-28 null and void, permanently enjoining from enforcing the and making the Preliminary Injunction permanent. Petitioners likewise pray for other relief just and equitable under the law. -30-

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