Thursday, February 15, 2007

6,000 voters in Makati denied right to suffrage?

6,000 voters in Makati denied right to suffrage?

15 February 2007. As politicians prepare for May elections, former railway dwellers in Makati City who were relocated at the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao, Laguna are facing a legal battle to preserve their right to vote.

Up to 6,000 voters may be denied the vote this upcoming election due to the largest displacement of people in the history of the Philippines, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

This developed after petitions for exclusion of voters has been raffled off and assigned to Judge Roberto Buenaventura of Branch 63 and Judge Carlito Calpatura of Branch 62 of the Makati City Metropolitan Trial Court. Judge Buenaventura will hear a case starting today, while Judge Calpatura will hear the other cases starting tomorrow.

Respondents were former residents of Barangay Magallanes, Bangkal, Pio del Pilar and San Antonio along the PNR railway tracks.

Petitioner Edgardo Collado and Oscar Ibay filed the petition February 2. The petitioners argued that respondents, having permanently transferred their residence, their names should be cancelled and excluded from the list of voters considering that they have ceased to be bona fide residents of Makati City.

One of the basic human rights recognized in the international instruments of human rights is the right to vote as guaranteed by the Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The said right is reiterated in Article V of the Philippine Constitution.

“Libo-libong relocatee ang hindi makakaboto dito dahil ayaw silang pabotohin sa Makati at hindi naman sila registered sa Cabuyao. Ang Comelec dito, sa haba ng pila, alas kwatro pa lang ng madaling araw sarado na dahil 300 lang kasi ang pwedeng magparehistro bawat araw. Isa pa kailangan ng 6-month residency para makapagparehistro,” said Estrella Terencio, president of UPSAI. “Ang kailangan namin dito ay special registration dahil sa 7,000 families na na-relocate dito halos kalahati ay di pa nakapagparehistro.”

The respondents appeal to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) invoking their right to vote. “Sana ay mabigyan sila ng special consideration dahil hindi naman nila ginusto ang kanilang kalagayan. In the first place, the laws are made for man and to protect his/her right,” said Atty. Bienvenido Salinas 2nd, coordinator of UPA’s legal unit, St. Thomas More Law Center.

In a demolition drive that began since early 2005 and still continues in Pandacan, more than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan due to the rehabilitation of the Philippine railway system.

To 26 year-old Marnellie Buenviaje, there is almost no reason to be happy on Valentines Day. “Last year masaya, kasi kasama ko ang asawa ko. Pero ngayon ang hirap, wala siya, wala akong katuwang sa pagpapalaki sa mga anak ko. Pero kapag pinanghihinaan ako ng loob, kawawa ang mga anak ko.”

Buenviaje’s husband died in a motorcycle accident last year right before her family was relocated beside a dumpsite in Southville as part of the government’s Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project. Instead, the single mother of 3 spent her Valentines with a paralegal training seminar held yesterday in Cabuyao for the Urban Poor Southville Association Inc. (UPSAI).

Members of UPSAI sought the help of Urban Poor Associates (UPA) regarding their security of tenure, problems on distant relocation and basic services.

UPA research reveals that most of the evictees have been moved to relocation sites where living conditions are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity, transport, medical, education and livelihood programs.

The dengue outbreak and unsanitary conditions in Southville have claimed the lives of 15 children. “This contradicts the promise of politicians in their manifesto and platform in the recent elections. Those are promises believed to have garnered electoral support among poor,” the UPA said in a statement.
Urban Poor Associates (UPA) is a non-government organization that concentrates on evictions of urban poor people and upgrading of poor communities. -30-
For interviews with Urban Poor Associates (UPA) or additional information please contact UPA’s Media Advocacy Officer, John Lagman (632) 4264118.

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