Sunday, February 21, 2010

Urban Poor Right to Suffrage Might be Violated

News Release
February 23, 2010

Hundred thousands of urban poor are threatened with eviction and many of them are placed in distant relocation sites as in Calauan, Laguna and Bulacan areas. This massive demolition and eviction implemented by the government arouses fear among the affected urban poor communities that it could lead to violation of their right to vote in this May election.

Prescilda Juanich, President of Samahang Pinagbuklod ng Pagkakaisa (SAPIPA) said, “Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) attempted to demolish our houses last January 20, 2010, but they didn’t succeed as we women in the community formed a human barricade to protect our houses. The demolition crew fired water cannons and the Navotas police hit us. This not only caused us physical injuries but caused anxiety to the entire community. Until now, there is a threat of another violent eviction and it disables us to focus on the coming election.”

SAPIPA is a people’s organization along Road 10 Navotas comprised of 2000 families. They are affected by the road widening project of DPWH.

On the other hand, on December 4, 2010, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo revoked two presidential proclamations that would benefit 100,000 informal settlers along Manggahan Floodway, and in Taytay, Rizal through the issuance of Executive Order No. 854.

This means that 100,000 informal settlers along Manggahan Floodway and in Taytay, Rizal are subject to demolition and eviction at any time before the election. A number of them have been evicted and now relocated in Calauan, Laguna.

“Those of us living along Manggahan Floodway strongly object to the order of the president that will evict us. Now, we are forced to go to Calauan, Laguna on the last week of February or early March,” said Vicky Morante, President of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Kababaihan sa Floodway Inc.

“If my family has to go to Calauan where there is no livelihood and 100 kilometers away from the City, how can we vote in this coming May election? The transportation will cost us a lot because I got three children who are also registered voters in Pasig. Will we not be accused of selling our votes if we accept pamasahe (transportation money) from candidates? Or can we still vote in Pasig even if we are already residing in Calauan? We are afraid we will not be able to exercise our right to vote. These are our concerns especially that a big number of urban poor families are affected of the issuance of Executive Order No. 854,” she added.

The Task Force Anti-Eviction group 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 (COPE) Foundation has been calling for a one year-moratorium on demolitions as big numbers of urban poor may be deprived of their right of suffrage.

UPA, a housing rights non-government organization, noted that in 2007 election 6000 former railway dwellers in Makati affected by the North Rail and South Rail Linkage project transferred to Southville Resettlement in Cabuyao. They had to rally in front of the Laguna Commission on Election (COMELEC) Regional Office and faced a legal battle when Edgardo Collado and Oscar Ibay, both running for Mayor in Makati, filed a petition for exclusion against those relocated to Southville Cabuyao, claiming the relocated voters had ceased to be bonafide residents of Makati City.

The rallyists argued that they did not move out of Makati out of their own volition but were forced to be relocated by the government to give way to the railway project. In the process of relocation, only a few were able to register in Cabuyao. Most of them were not allowed to register because of the six-month residency requirement.

Had they not fought and pushed for it, they would have lost their basic right to vote to elect leaders.

“This is a major issue that should be addressed in this time. As we are all busy pushing for credible election let us not allow the urban poor be disenfranchised. Their right to vote should never be compromised,” said UPA Deputy Coordinator Teodoro Anana.

The Task Force Anti-Eviction together with NGOs and people’s organization will push for a demolition moratorium whatever it will take in order to avoid the voting problems mentioned in this article. -30-

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