Saturday, February 24, 2007

Urban poor women and children to fight against illegal demolition

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Urban poor women and children to fight against illegal demolition

The country’s slum dwellers are always the first to suffer when government pushes its development projects. This time, however, poor families living under San Andres Bridge 1 along South Super Highway in Paco, Manila are intending to put up a fight against Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Threatened with illegal demolition, the settlers are planning on Tuesday, February 27, to form a barricade of women and children to resist any attempt to tear down their houses along Estero Tripa de Gallina. “Lalaban kami kung kailangang magbuwis ng buhay. Di baleng mamatay ako, madinig lang, pansinin lang ang problema,” said 47-year old Alberta Abenaza, president of Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT), a people’s organization.

Since 2001, Abenaza has written letters asking for relocation assistance to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Presidential Action Center, National Housing Authority (NHA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DPWH, MMDA, Church groups, and several Manila City officials.

“Di naman po kami tutol sa proyekto, ang hinihiling lamang po namin ay mabigyan ng pag-asa upang mabago at maitaguyod ang aming pamilya sa maayos na pamumuhay,” said Abenaza.

Personnel from MMDA and DPWH have verbally informed the residents last February 21 that they will be forcibly evicted due to the repair of the bridge.

The settlers who have lived for more than 14 years at the community filed their petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction last January 12 at the Manila Regional Trial Court to prevent their eviction and the demolition of their houses. The presiding judge of the case is Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag of RTC Branch 1.

The people charge that the government “action to demolish and evict the petitioners without consultation and more importantly, without any provision for adequate relocation as mandated by the Constitution and Republic Act 7279 also known as Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) is gross violation of the law,” said Atty. Bienvenido A. Salinas 2nd, coordinator of the legal unit of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), St. Thomas More Law Center. “It also runs afoul of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),” he added.

In a meeting with the residents held in Brgy. 734 last January 24, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza promised that there would be no demolition as he looked for a relocation site.

SAINT appealed anew last February 21 in a letter to Mayor Atienza to halt the demolition. “Dumating na po sa sukdulan ang pinangangambahan namin. Hirap, pagod, gutom at takot na kami. Ikaw lang po ang makakatulong sa aming problema sa ngayon,” the letter read.

Atty. Christine Anne Marie R. Alcazar of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) issued a certification dated February 23 saying that MMDA and DPWH has not applied for a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for the February 27 demolition of some 54 families under the bridge.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order No.152 designated the PCUP as the sole clearinghouse for the proper conduct of demolitions and evictions involving the homeless and underprivileged and establishing a mechanism to ensure strict compliance with the requirements of just and humane demolition and eviction.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued last January their Pastoral Statement for this year saying: “We call on those concerned to stop uncaring evictions and demolitions. We have laws in the land that tell us the proper processes for eviction. Let these laws be respected and followed, especially by law-enforcing agencies.”

Urban Poor Associates (UPA) is a non-government organization established to assist urban poor people in eviction crises, educate families in housing rights matters 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 on (632) 4264118.

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