Thursday, October 15, 2009


SHELTER FROM HARM A girl whiles away the hours playing in front of her house in Bagong Silangan, Q.C. on Oct. 4.


Typhoon Ondoy no sooner began to subside than government once again blamed the poor families - - estimated to number about 80,000 families (400,000 men, women and mostly children) - - for the unprecedented flooding.

The government has prohibited these poor families from returning to their homes from the evacuation centers. Housing officials talk publicly about evicting all 80,000 families and relocating them outside the city, far from jobs and basic services.

These government actions are based on the belief that the poor caused the floods by blocking the esteros and rivers. Luckily there were other explanations for the flooding. Architects, geologists and urban planners reminded us that the causes of the floods were much more complex. Cabinet and city officials connived with developers to violate sensible planning rules. Others logged and quarried in the mountains around Metro Manila. Climate change played a role. Guilty, too, are those city officials who ignored the instructions of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992 that each city should set aside land for social housing. If that had been done 17 years ago, there would be fewer families on the rivers and esteros.

The poor are partially to blame, but there is a huge difference between the poor, the officials and developers. The latter violate the law for gain, motivated by greed. The poor live on the shabby waterways because they have too. They are there to survive and would gladly move to a relocation center in the city where they could get back and forth to their jobs. They are not necessarily opposed to relocation but to evictions and relocation that are inhuman and violate the Constitution, the country’s international covenants and laws.

We ask for two things. First, let government establish an independent board of inquiry to look into the basic causes of the flooding. We will then know who the main violators of the common good are. The study can examine also the possibilities of in-city relocation for the poor on the waterways.

Secondly, we ask government not to evict poor people until we have an explanation of what really went wrong and fully prepared and discussed plans.

The urban poor will resist evictions and relocation that violate the law and further impoverish them.

If government will not make such an inquiry, the urban poor will do so to the best of their ability.

Do not make the poor the scapegoat for the greed of the wealthy and powerful. We see poor people walking the streets looking for rice for their families. Don’t add to their suffering.

The urban poor extend their compassion to all who suffered in Ondoy, especially to the families of those who died trying to help others. May God take care of all of us.

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