Tuesday, February 27, 2007

MMDA demolition in Paco terrorized poor dwellers

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MMDA demolition in Paco terrorized poor dwellers

27 February 2007. A violent demolition today, this time in Paco, Manila hurt scores of residents living under the San Andres Bridge 1 along South Super Highway and displaced some 54 urban poor families. Accompanied by armed policemen, the demolition was carried out by more than 200-strong demolition team from Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

It was already 2:30 in the afternoon when 64 year-old Natividad Navarro was hit by a bottle on her knee, and then suddenly she heard the gunfire and explosions. At first she was shocked and terrified, she waited for the noise to die down. But after a while, when she realized that the gunfire and explosions were not going to stop, she ran away with her 2-year old granddaughter, aiming to get out of the demolition teams and seek the safety on a nearby tree beside the highway. “Mga hayop sila, di sila makatao,” Navarro cried out.

After several armed assaults, many children including her granddaughter were crying out in terror. “Di ko na alam ang aking gagawin. Ang pag-aaral ng mga apo ko nasira na. Wala naman kaming pupuntahan,” Navarro said.

Before the clash started, Fr. Jorge Anzorena, a famous Jesuit priest, architect and Ramon Magsaysay awardee helped in the resident’s negotiation with MMDA. Before the violence started, Fr. Jorge said the barangay chairman and the residents had requested that they be given 30 minutes to get some of their personal belongings. The MMDA, however, went ahead which made the chairman angry. Warning shots rang out from the guns of MMDA personnel and the armed police escorts.

“How could you destroy their lives, their livelihood, their future? This is very disgusting in a country with so much suffering,” Fr. Anzorena told the MMDA.

Anzorena recalled that only yesterday, in a meeting at the barangay hall, the MMDA and personnel from Manila City government promised the residents that they will delay the demolition for one week as the residents look for relocation site.

“This is something difficult to understand…making poorer the poor. A government which is suppressing the people,” Anzorena added. “It’s very sad, how people could do this,” he said.
People were shouting while their barangay captain Alfredo Tan was being beaten like a dog by swarming MMDA personnel. According to the residents, 5 more men including a barangay councilor had been hit in their head and were brought to a nearby hospital.

Her worst fear was confirmed when Alberta Abenaza saw the poor families sprawled all over. Abenaza, president of Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT), a people’s organization, felt betrayed as she was tricked by the MMDA personnel. “Tinawag nila ako para mawala ako sa barikada. Wala na ang mga gamit ko, ninakaw lahat ng MMDA. Hayop talaga,” Abenaza said.

While the leaders were away to discuss everything in a meeting with a certain Engineer Baal of Manila City Engineering Office and only barricade of children were present, the demolition teams began to surround the bridge and drive away the residents. When the barangay captain arrived, he was so upset and angry with the deception. “Huwag munang magdemolis, may negotiation pa,” the barangay captain told the notorious demolition team.

Aside from the 54 families under San Andres Bridge 1, some 87 families under South Super Highway Bridge 1 in San Andres Bukid were also forcibly evicted beginning this morning, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), an NGO helping the poor families in eviction crises. “More than 100 families may sleep on the streets tonight because they have no relocation site. The MMDA used a ploy by giving away 5,000 pesos for each family instead,” the UPA said.
There were uniformed policemen present when the assault occurred. The police tried to arrest angry residents who started to throw things in the air while the noise started.

Anzorena believe that the number of violent demolitions will continue as long as the government is going against its rule. “It was painful. I think the politicians should really care for the poor,” Anzorena said

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, according to UPA. -30-

For additional information please contact UPA at 4264118.

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