Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bishop criticizes heartless evictions of waterways dwellers


Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C.
Telefax: 4264118 Tel.: 4264119 / 4267615

Ref: John Francis Lagman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17
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Bishop criticizes heartless evictions of waterways dwellers

23 March 2007. “Kahit na mahihirap iyan, kahit na ang kanilang lugar ay hindi dapat tirhan, mga tao iyan. Yung nakakalungkot, mahirap na yung mga tao, pahihirapan pa.”

These are the words how Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Chairman of the CBCP Housing Committee, sees the problem of poor families who were dislocated due to forced evictions and illegal demolitions along Estero de Paco, Estero Tripa de Gallina and Estero de Pandacan.

More than 1,000 families living along esteros which cover at least 15 barangays stretching from United Nations Avenue up to Osmeña Highway have found an advocate in Bishop Pabillo, who has offered to help them in a press conference held this morning at the Arzobispado de Manila.

“Kailangan sana ang pamahalaan natin ay sumunod sa batas. Kasi may batas naman tayo tungkol sa pagtatanggal ng mga tao at ginawa iyan upang igalang yung mga tao sa kanilang karapatang pantao. Dapat sana sa pagtanggal sa kanila, ilikas na may matitirhan pagkatapos,” Bishop Pabillo said.

While having a meeting with MMDA and other government officials yesterday, Bishop Pabillo received a text message regarding an on-going demolition in Pasay City. “Habang pinag-uusapan namin ang mga problema ng demolisyon, abala naman ang MMDA sa pagdedemolis. Ang gubyerno mismo ay hindi tumutupad ng batas,” Bishop Pabillo said.

Beginning February 27, settlers along waterways are being forcibly evicted by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). With no other place to go, these settlers were left homeless and so have made their makeshift tents on sidewalks along the streets.

As she cries, Catherine Arquero of Barangay 734 narrated her demolition story: “Marso 1 nang dumating sa aming lugar ang MMDA. Wala silang sinanto ni isa man sa amin, bagkus kami ay pinagnakawan pa. Wala rin silang pakialam sa mga kasangkapang aming napundar sa mahabang panahong pag-iipon, winasak po nila ang mga ito at itinapon sa ilog. Marami sa amin tinutukan ng baril, pinagmumura na parang hayop. Mula ng kami ay giniba hanggang sa kasalukuyan kami ay nasa kalye. Marami na sa mga bata ang nagkakasakit dahil sa init ng araw at lamig ng gabi. Wala po kaming mga banyo sa kalye. Ngunit ang labis ko pong kinababahala ay ang aming kaligtasan. Kami po ay sa gilid ng Osmeña Highway natutulog.”

“None of the 914 families evicted from waterways were relocated after often violent demolitions. Another 500 families are also on the same fate. The evictions were illegal since the MMDA failed to comply with guidelines on the conduct of demolitions,” according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that helps poor families in eviction crises.

“The law requires that families evicted from government land must be given decent relocation,” said Atty. Bienvenido Salinas II, coordinator of UPA’s legal unit, St. Thomas More Law Center.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued on January 28 a Pastoral Statement on the Nation’s Housing Problems. The CBCP calls for a stop to uncaring evictions and demolitions and asks that laws be observed in the proper processes of eviction. “We cannot afford to be indifferent and complacent in front of this grave injustice…While Filipinos are getting known all over the world as good construction workers and builders, we are not able to provide houses for our homeless.”

"The bishops were able to publicize the issue, but they have not been able to influence government to take decisive steps to stop demolitions or provide better relocation," the UPA said in a statement.

The Philippine government suffers a severe backlog to housing, one of the most difficult social problems that UPA blame on officials' insincerity and lack of political will. “Many politicians are only playing on the basic needs of the poor people and cuddle them in pursuit of election victory,” the UPA added.
To survive in cities, poor people end up at garbage mounds, canals, or vacant lots, where they patch together shanties of wood, galvanized iron and other scraps. Regarded as an eyesore, however, these communities are always dismantled whenever cities pave the way for beautification and soulless development projects. -30-

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