Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Speech delivered by Commision on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Atty. Leila M. de Lima

On the Occasion of the Launch of the Manifesto on Illegal Demolitions and Forced Evictions

Quezon City, 2 September 2008

delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

The Fourth Commission has just marked the first 100 days in office and we reported to the media many of the accomplishments achieved in the past three and a half months. One of the most important campaigns of the Commission on human rights protection is the drive to put an end to illegal demolitions and forced evictions.

Today is an especially important landmark for the Fourth Commission. The Manifesto presented here today represents the first giant step forward for the Commission on the cause of putting an end to illegal demolitions and forced evictions. The passage of the UDHA several years ago was billed as a breakthrough for informal settlers. As we've seen over the years, however, the deficiencies of the UDHA have become apparent. Hindi na tugunan ng UDHA ang 'di makatarungan at maka-taong demolisyon at ebiksyon. Hindi lubusang matupad ng mga lokal na pamahalaan ang mga probisyon ng Saligang Batas at ng UDHA. This Manifesto represents the strongest statement from those affected most by MMDA and local government demolition operations. We at the Commission are thrilled that our contribution to and support for the efforts of the urban poor groups has culminated in this presentation of the Manifesto. We have noted, with great pride, that many of the recommendations of the Commission on the amendment of the UDHA have been incorporated into the Manifesto.

The Commission lauds the efforts of the Urban Poor Associates and its affiliated organizations. The strength of this campaign is not merely in the multitude that it seeks to protect and represent but in its effectiveness of organization. The Manifesto is a unifying document that brings together the thousands who are adversely affected by illegal demolitions. Hereafter, it is vital that the presentation of this Manifesto to the media will generate even more support from more urban poor organizations and bring as many stake-holders together and speak with one voice through one Manifesto.

The task is, by far, not over. From the hundreds here this morning, we have to gather thousands and thousands more. Remember that the strength is not just in the numbers. It must be in organized numbers.

There are many critical contributions that must follow for this campaign to succeed. Since the local government is a critical part in the process of demolitions and evictions, their positive action is key to our campaign. It is not enough that we invite representatives of the local government to attend our forums on illegal demolitions. Hindi sapat na sabihin nila na alam nila ang mga hinanakit ng mga impormal na nananahanan. Hindi rin sapat na alam nila na may problema sa implementasyon ng UDHA. Hindi sapat na sasabihin ng MMDA na sumusunod lang sila sa isang resolusyon ng Metro Manila Council. Sa panig naman ng mga LGUs, PCUP at NHA, hindi sapat na panay ang bintang nila sa MMDA. Nangangailangan na ng aksyon sa pamamagitan ng mga local legislation at ordinansya na ipinagbabawal ng di-makatarungang demolisyon. Having said this, it is extremely important now to foster cooperation between organized urban poor groups and the various mayors. Before the passage of any amended law on the UDHA, the local government units must be on-board and supportive of alternatives to forced evictions and proactively preventing illegal demolitions.

In addition, the contribution of the media in disseminating our cause is key. Today's event is intended to generate media interest. However, the campaign is far from over and media coverage must be sustained over the course of our struggle to bring about just and humane solutions to the urban housing problem. All the more, the efforts of the UPA and other groups have to be coordinated and organized, in order to sustain a public relations campaign. As with other human rights issues that occupy the front pages of the news, this campaign must gather enough momentum to find its way onto the newspapers and evening news. It must not stop until both the local and national government fulfill the promises of the UDHA and Constitution.

At the moment, we are witnessing some progress in the fight against unjust and inhumane evictions. In finding other allies in government, the efforts of both the Commission and the urban poor groups have been recognized by the Supreme Court no less. This is a very important development especially since there has hardly been any declared support from the Executive Branch and LGUs, and Legislative support, spearheaded by Senator Aquino will take time before an Amended UDHA can be passed. The Chief Justice, however, is already exploring the possibility of amending the Writ of Amparo to extend to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and thus the same writ intended to protect victims of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances may soon protect victims of illegal demolitions and forced evictions as well.

The gains are still small, but they are promising. What we need now is not so much a show of anger or dissidence or violence, but sobriety. We need to be very deliberate in our efforts to gain the cooperation of key sectors of government and civil society. We need to be calculating in our managing of our resources and networks in sustaining media coverage. We need to contribute, with earnest effort, to find alternatives to forced evictions in order to suggest solutions to the government authorities, instead of expecting them to devise their own solutions. In all, our campaign must not be driven by anger, but by soberness. We will attain the justice for all informal settlers not by indignation, but with clarity of thought.

Nang mabasa ko ang Manifesto,napansin ko na may pagkakatulad ito sa aming mungkahi para sa aming kampanya laban sa ilegal na demolisyon. Sa panawagan ninyo para sa moratorium sa demolisyon at sapilitang ebiksyon, imumungkahi ko sa Commission En Banc na magpalabas ng resolusyon ukol dito.

Ipagdasal natin na makakamit natin ang mga hangarin ng ating Manifesto at ang ating layunin ng ating pakikibaka. Ipagdasal din natin na mananatiling matatag ang loob ng mga lahat ng nagbubuhos ng pawis at dugo para sumulong ang kampanya natin na makamtam ang tunay na justisya para sa mga maralitang komunidad. Nawa'y maging tunay na makatao at makatarungan ang ating lipunan.

Maraming salamat po.

References: ADVISORY ON THE CONDUCT OF FORCED EVICTIONS AND HOUSE DEMOLITIONS

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