Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slow motions highlight 3-year old case vs MMDA

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Slow motions highlight 3-year old case vs MMDA

23 August 2007. Some 70 poor families who are seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to prevent their eviction and the demolition of their houses along San Juan River are hoping that their 3-year old case may finally be heard at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon today after series of motions to reset hearing filed by the MMDA’s legal counsel.

Petitioners, who are residents of Gregorio Araneta Avenue Extension, Brgy. Dona Imelda in Quezon City, filed their petition for injunction and for a TRO November 4, 2004 at the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

Pursuant to the order of Hon. Vivencio Baclig, the Presiding Judge of Branch 77, the case was set for pre-trial conference on June 29, 2005. With an urgent motion to reset hearing, lawyer Thomas Laragan, a Senior State Solicitor, requested the court that the hearing be cancel and reset to August 31 because he will be attending several cases against the government in Bago City and Bacolod City.

The Solicitor again begs for the “understanding” of the court as he requested for the cancellation of the pre-trial and its resetting to October 12 because he will be leaving for Washington D.C. and San Francisco California, United States of America (USA) to attend the observation tour for Philippine law enforcement. However, in a very urgent motion to reset hearing, the Solicitor again requested for the cancellation of the hearing and its resetting to November 16 or any other date convenient to the calendar of the court because he is busy preparing the government’s comment on the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 464.

“The instant motion is not intended to delay, much less to trifle with the generosity of the honorable court,” Laragan stated in all his motions, to which the court acceded.

Thereafter, on July 13, 2007 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received court order setting the case for hearing on August 1. However, with another urgent motion to reset hearing, the Solicitor requested for the cancellation of the hearing and its resetting to August 23 because the Solicitor will travel to USA and that his trip abroad is covered by a duly approved application for leave of absence chargeable against his leave credits and that his expenses shall not be borne by the government.

“Mga 15 to 20 times na siguro na-reset. Bihira ko makita abogado ng MMDA. Siguro delaying tactic nga. Kasi labag sa batas ang mga ginagawa ng MMDA sa pagdedemolis,” said Jose Morales, one of the 25 petitioners.

To assuage their fear of being thrown into the streets, petitioners had sought the assistance of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization defending the housing rights of the urban poor.

Evictions are not a viable solution to the problem of slum dwelling, according to UPA. UPA research demonstrated that evicting poor people, without alternatives, does nothing to reduce the total number of slums. This is so because evictees invariably move into other slums in the area, sometimes after long periods of out on the street. Conditions in street are generally just as or even more unhealthy and unsafe as the shanties from which evictees were originally removed.

“We are deeply saddened by the impunity of illegal demolitions which swept through several areas in Metro Manila as typhoon lashes the country,” said Teodoro Añana, UPA deputy coordinator.

“The government is under a constitutional duty to devise and implement a plan to provide basic shelter for those who are in desperate need. Yet the government has manifestly failed to perform on its obligation to cater for them. It is this failure to provide alternatives which leaves the poor vulnerable to disasters,” Añana added.

MMDA personnel have recently informed the poor families that their homes will be demolished any time this August 17 to 31. ###

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