Thursday, June 12, 2008

Muslims in Baclaran, Groups Resist Forced Eviction


Muslims in Baclaran, Groups Resist Forced Eviction

12 June 2008. Muslims have warned the government against the demolition of their mosque situated at a reclamation site in Baclaran and said that forced eviction of some 300 families would be the bloodiest in Philippine history.

Tension gripped the Muslim community Wednesday after a government demolition team tried to approach the residents who are willing to fight to their death opposing forced eviction and the demolition of their shanties.

Armed with sticks and stones, angry residents blocked some 200 crewmen while some 30 Special Weapons and Action Team (SWAT) secure the area.

As early as 7 am, police were already in the area, according to Abdelmanan Tanandato. Tanandato, a local leader, said the demolition team is using a writ of execution issued by Fortunito Madrona, Presiding Judge of the ParaƱaque City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 274.

By 9 am, the demolition team started to move in the Muslim community but they later backed off due to the fierce offensive movement of residents. Chanting “Alah Wakbar” (Alah is great), residents had vowed to protect the mosque.

To prevent serious untoward incidents, Muslim leaders held a dialogue with Jeffrey Sales, the RTC sheriff. Sales agreed to give the residents more time to get a legal remedy like temporary restraining order (TRO).

During a public hearing at the Senate last Tuesday, Tanandato asked Senator Noynoy Aquino to intervene on behalf of the Muslim families. Senator Aquino said he would call Andrea Domingo, General Manager of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to halt the demolition and arrange a dialogue.

Senator Aquino had recently filed Senate Resolution No. 402 directing the committee on local government to investigate in aid of legislation, the implementation of Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992. This is principally on the mandate of local government units to conduct inventory of all lands within their respective localities and identify sites for socialized housing and resettlement areas.

After 15 years UDHA has failed to provide for a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program due to terrible implementation, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights NGO. “Thousands of families are literally evicted and left in the streets without relocation. Of the 2,781 families evicted this year in Metro Manila, excluding railroad evictions, only 9% received relocation.”

In an oral statement about the Philippine’s Universal Periodic Review which the government submitted to the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) drew attention to the continuing prevalence of forced evictions. In a session held in Geneva, Switzerland, COHRE said the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in particular evicted over 2,000 families last year, without resettlement benefits in over 90% of the cases.

COHRE will also raise to the Human Rights Council the issue of forced eviction of Muslims in Baclaran and write a letter of concern to the Philippine government. -30-

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