Monday, February 16, 2009

Urban Poor Group Seeks Clarification of Supreme Court Ruling

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Urban Poor Group Seeks Clarification of Supreme Court Ruling

16 February 2009. Several urban poor communities have decided to seek clarification from the Supreme Court regarding its ruling in cleaning up Manila Bay that seems to give license to government agencies, particularly the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to demolish their dwellings found along the banks of Pasig River and its tributaries.

The communities have sought the assistance of St. Thomas More Law Center of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) and the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan) to act as their counsel in a motion for clarification before the Supreme Court which will be filed Monday (February 16) morning.

In its decision on MMDA vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, et. al (SC GR. Nos. 171947-48), the Court mandates and authorizes the demolition of structures, houses of the urban poor included, as an integral process of cleaning the Manila Bay, without mentioning the obligation of the implementing agencies to observe the need for consultation and relocation in a humane manner as required by law.

Under Republic Act 7279 also known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (more popularly known as the Lina Law), families who live in the so called danger zones may be relocated and their homes may be demolished provided that they are given adequate relocation after a process of consultation and dialogue.

This clarification from the court is urgently needed because the usual practice of MMDA is to demolish dwellings without giving notice and doing away with consultation, and without providing adequate relocation.

In fact, MMDA practices summary demolition based on the Building Code and the provision on summary demolition under the Civil Code.

MMDA has rendered thousands of urban poor families homeless, some of whom are now literally living in the streets with their children and elderly, exposed to the elements.

The number of families estimated to be directly affected by this court ruling is about 70,000.

While the communities have no legal standing to question the decision as they are not a party to the case, they have sought a prior leave of court to be allowed to seek clarification on the manner of executing and implementing the decision.

They will be directly affected if the government agencies, particularly the MMDA should interpret the decision as an order to demolish and destroy their dwellings without observing the people’s right to notice, consultation and relocation, among others.

Aside from UPA, other movants are housing rights NGOs such as the Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco (Kabalikat), Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig (ULAP) and residents along Radial 10 (R-10) Boulevard in Tondo, Manila. -30-

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