Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TRO sought against MMDA, DPWH, PNR, NHA to stop forced eviction

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TRO sought against MMDA, DPWH, PNR, NHA to stop forced eviction

16 April 2008. To prevent their eviction and the demolition of their houses, settlers along the railway and Radial Road 10 (R-10) are seeking a temporary restraining order against the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine National Railways (PNR) and National Housing Authority (NHA).

Petitioners filed their petition for a TRO and preliminary injunction April 16 at the Supreme Court. The settlers who live along the railroad tracks in Sta. Cruz, Tondo and Sampaloc, Manila are being threatened with demolitions and evictions due to the Northrail Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP). While the residents along R-10, North Bay Boulevard in Navotas City are affected by the road-widening project.

The government agencies should be prohibited from evicting the informal settlers and demolishing houses since the evictions are being carried out in utter violation of the constitutional guarantees and safeguards regarding forced evictions vis-à-vis Republic Act 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization who provided the assistance through its legal unit, the St. Thomas More Law Center.

“The respondent government agencies brazenly laid down its plan of actions for the year 2008 which involve the demolition of houses and evictions of thousands of urban informal settlers in the guise of carrying out its development and/or clearing operation along the whole stretch of railroad tracks and Road 10, Navotas City,” the counsel for the petitioners, lawyer Bienvenido Salinas Jr. and Ritche Esponilla, said in a statement.”

Other NGOs such as the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) and Community Organizers of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation co-sponsored the filing of the case.

The group cited the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) who admittedly observed several flaws in the conduct of demolitions and evictions in urban poor communities. Such violations are: a mere 5 five days verbal notice; No consultation; Insufficient fund; No relocation; Proponent (like MMDA) do not apply for the Certificate of Compliance with PCUP as required by E.O. 152; Affected families are forced to receive financial assistance instead of relocation; Relocation sites have few if any available economic opportunities; and Relocation sites have no adequate basic services.

“These looming threats of eviction and demolition despite non-compliance with what are required by no less the Constitution and UDHA – e.g. prior notice/s, adequate relocation and consultation which continuously being undertaken by the respondent government agencies inflict gross injustice on the urban poor community. The effect and impact of massive displacements of affected families, including women and children, cannot be denied.”

Petitioners are aware of the basic principle on the observance of hierarchy of courts. With due deference, however, petitioners find it proper to file this suit directly before the Supreme Court under the exception that “when the issue at hand transcends national interest and with a sense of urgency, petition of this nature may be filed directly with the High Court.”

“Undeniably, the issue at hand which will create, as in fact it has created in last year’s demolitions and evictions, massive displacement of affected families within the railroad tracks transcends national interest. This concerns human beings who are also accorded basic rights by no less the Constitution itself to life and shelter. They cannot simply be dragged and forced from their makeshifts in the guise of development and promotion of general welfare.”

Some 50,000 families living on the railroad tracks will be evicted because of the railway project. About 30,000 families still remain on the tracks. While some 16,000 families along R-10 will be evicted due to the road-widening project. -30-

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