Saturday, August 8, 2009

Urban poor group to picket HUDCC office

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Urban poor group to picket HUDCC office

Some 300 urban poor people will converge at the Ninoy Aquino monument (Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas) in Makati City on Tuesday morning and beginning at 9:00 AM they will march toward the office of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) located at the Banco de Oro Building (Paseo de Roxas corner Makati Avenue) to protest the government agency’s inaction in providing relocation to urban poor families affected by demolitions and forced evictions.

Members of the Task Force Anti-Eviction met President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in August 1 last year and she ordered various government agencies including HUDCC to develop the Montalban relocation site with an initial budget of 300 million pesos. Nothing has happened since. People will ask HUDCC, what happened to the money and the relocation?

Urban poor communities are constantly threatened with forced evictions. Evicted families have been living on sidewalks exposed to the elements of heat and rain. What happened to the promise of the president?

Photo ops: Demonstrators will wear colorful boxes shaped like houses on their heads which symbolize their right to shelter. Songs of protest. Giant slide show.

Date: August 11, 2009 (Tuesday)

Time: 9:00 AM

Assembly Point: Ninoy Aquino monument, Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas

Government’s Plan to Tear Down Mosque Provokes Muslims to Fight


Government’s Plan to Tear Down Mosque Provokes Muslims to Fight

08 August 2009. Muslims living near a mosque in Baclaran, Pasay City said they will turn their community into a war zone if the government pushes through with its plan to demolish the mosque to give way for commercial establishments, including casinos.

“Kapag may nasaktan na bata, matanda, at babae, lalaban kami ng patayan,” (If there are children, elderly and women hurt in the demolition, we will fight them to the death) said Abdelmanan Tanandato, leader of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Nademolis sa Roxas Boulevard.

Tanandato was informed that the muslim community and mosque will be demolished on the first week of August. The plan was later moved to Monday (August 10) “perhaps due to the typhoon and the death of the former President Cory Aquino”.

He said the community is prepared to face the demolition team and they will form a human barricade around the mosque to protect it.

The Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise Foundation (COPE) have asked the government to defer the demolition. “The government should reflect on its plan to pursue the demolition of the mosque now that Ramadan is approaching,” the group said.

Muslims believe that a person is twice saved if he or she dies during Ramadan defending Islam.

“The Muslim people believe it is God’s will that they defend the mosque. The government should allow the Mosque to stay, let it remain amid the infrastructure projects that will be built,” said Ted AƱana, deputy coordinator of UPA.

Congressman Leandro Montemayor yesterday sent a letter to Ms. Andrea Domingo, General Manager of Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to inquire about their position regarding the occupancy status of muslims over this reclaimed property. The objective is to arrive at a peaceful and amicable solution to the problem.

The letter requests PRA to defer the eviction of the Muslim community especially in the light of pending cases at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court and the City Ordinance No. 4411 / moratorium on demolitions.

An international human rights organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), also shared their concern about the imminent forced eviction of the Baclaran mosque community. They visited the community in 2007 and have followed the case closely since then.

“COHRE has already raised this case with the government of the Philippines and at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, and will again be writing to the relevant Philippine authorities in order to urge them to respect their obligations under international human rights law,” said Dan Nicholson, Asia Pacific programme coordinator of COHRE. -30-

‘Aquino made it look easy to be good’

UCAN Commentary by Denis Murphy

August 7, 2009

MANILA (UCAN) -- Calling Corazon Aquino a “female Saint Thomas More” and the “Joan of Arc of the Philippines,” Catholics here have publicly thrown their support behind a suggestion to work for the late Philippine president’s canonization.

For Denis Murphy, coordinator of the NGO, Urban Poor Associates, this is understandable. He says her cause for canonization is being discussed as she was "very religious."

Though the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has publicly cautioned that the Church imposes strict conditions in the canonization process, Murphy, in a commentary for UCA News, makes clear the case for Aquino has merits.

The former Jesuit priest and longtime social worker in the Philippines recalls experiences with Aquino that showed she cared for people and tried to help them as much as she could. She led the 1986 "people power" revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

During her presidential campaign, Murphy was serving as editor of a Church news agency. Later in her presidency, which lasted 1986-1992, he devoted his time to working for the rights of city dwellers to decent housing.

Following are his reflections on Aquino’s life:

Aquino died in hospital on Aug. 1 after battling colon cancer.

Thick crowds, 30 meters deep in places, lined the roads leading from Manila Cathedral to the burial site 22 kilometers away in Paranaque. Most people cried as the giant float, with Mrs. Aquino’s casket on top of a huge bed of yellow flowers passed by.

Women shrieked in sorrow as if their own mothers were dead. The rains poured down through the journey, but the crowds got bigger. At one point, firemen saluted the former president by shooting streams of water in the air. The water fell, of course, on the people at the roadside, but no one seemed to notice.

As late as 4 a.m. the night before, near riots threatened outside the cathedral as people pressed to get in to see her one more time.

People had stood in line for up to 10 hours. Along the road to the cemetery there was a man who sat on a wall for 12 hours straight waving a flag, waiting for the cortege to pass by.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the hold Mrs. Aquino has on the Filipino people and it is natural that people are abuzz with the idea that this former Philippine president should be made a saint.

Perhaps the explanation is that, since all national heroes and heroines reflect the better characteristics of their people, Filipinos see their better selves reflected in the former president more than in anyone else.

What have they seen in Cory Aquino? What is it they wish to see in themselves?

At the necrological service the night before the burial, 19 Filipino men and women, some well known, some not, told a packed cathedral what struck them most about her.

The quality mentioned most often by her close women friends was her never ending thoughtfulness. She never forgot a friend’s birthday or a friend’s problem. She would show up unexpectedly at wakes and stay an hour or so. She had a kind word for everyone. She treated everyone with respect, including her bodyguards, drivers, maids and cooks. It might be hard to believe anyone was so nice but the stories told were so many it seems she really was that good and thoughtful.

She was thoroughly honest. No one in this back biting, overly critical country has ever said she took a single centavo from the Philippine treasury that she hadn’t earned. When she promised something, she kept her word and she never gave up. A sister-in-law told of Cory and herself waiting hours to see rude Marcos officials, sometimes waiting in the rain to ask a small favor for Aquino’s husband who was in jail. She never complained.

She was queenly. This was the aspect of Cory seen by some of the very macho men who worked with her. Former President Fidel Ramos, Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila, Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati, Congressman Teddy Locsin, Jr., journalist and former Aquino spokesperson, among them. Locsin put it in words at the necrological service, “She was my queen,” he said, “and I was her knight, her servant. She made me better just by being good herself.”

The poor loved her too. It wasn’t that she did great things for them, but rather that they thought she cared for them. It is the poor women who called out in sorrow along the roadside of her final journey. When things were not going well during Cory’s years in office, the poor always said, “Give her a chance, give her a chance.”

I remember one meeting that the urban poor had with her. They came to complain of several cruel evictions. In one, the police had released vicious dogs into the slum area in the early morning hours. Women told Cory how terrified they were when the dogs broke into their homes. The women cried. Cory cried. Everyone cried, even her military attache. Cory apologized and said it would never happen again.

The dogs were never repeated, but evictions went on. Possibly she could have done more if she had been more experienced in handling a huge bureaucracy.

Cory loved gossip as much as anyone. I remember watching her with a group of friends at a wedding anniversary. She would lean into the circle to make sure she heard every detail, then burst out laughing, then add her own comment on the person they were talking about, then they all laughed again and started over. You would never guess this was a woman who overthrew a dictator, rescued a people from despair, wowed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, inspired a generation and became “the beacon of democracy in Asia.”

Her cause for canonization is now being discussed. Is it possible a saint could enjoy gentle gossip?

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles (of Lipa) likened her to Thomas More and someone during the wake called her the Joan of Arc of the Philippines. I can understand it. I’ve never heard people talk so unanimously about a person’s thoughtfulness, generosity and all those virtues. She was president of the Philippines. She did not have to be all that.

She made it look easy to be good, her friends said. And she was good in the ways her people valued. She was thoughtful, kind, loyal, honest, very religious, just as everyone here wants to be. Loving her, they were loving the ideals their parents had put in them when they were children.

She was so good to others, so confident and buoyant, it was easy to forget she was a widow who had loved her husband dearly and always felt a deep emptiness in her heart because he was gone.

I interviewed her once for UCAN back in 1987. It was the end of the day and she was very tired. At the end, I asked if she could pose with my wife and me for a picture. “I sent the photographer home early, but wait,” she said. Soon she had her staff people running all over for a camera, while she talked about her days in Boston when Ninoy (her husband) was released from jail and allowed to go to the United States for a heart operation. In the end the staff couldn’t find a camera and she was very apologetic. “Next time we meet,” she said. I wish I had that picture now.

Paalam (good bye), Cory.

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