** NEWS RELEASE ***
06 March 2010. Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Mar Roxas, the leading candidates in the upcoming polls, signed a covenant with the urban poor Saturday, March 6, at the Del Pan Sports Complex, Tondo, Manila. The covenant is the list of issues submitted to them by the urban poor and housing rights organizations including Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise Foundation (COPE) and UP-All (Urban Poor Alliance).
Before a crowd of ten thousand urban poor people, wearing yellow shirts, from different parts of Metro Manila, the candidates promised to carry out the provisions of the covenant if elected. This promise was followed by big applause. The dome was filled with joyful chants, “Noynoy!” and the big crowd flashing the Laban sign.
UPA observed that this is the first time that so many urban poor group, people’s organization, NGOs and even church groups became involved in Partisan Politics. Present were UP-ALL, the only nationwide federation with 1,200 member organizations, and Koalisyon ng mga Organisadong Samahan sa Maynila (KOSMA), a new federation of urban poor groups in districts 1 and 3 of Tondo in Manila working for land tenure security, local housing board, and basic services for all the poor people.
UPA added that the big crowd and supporting organizations have seen that without political power in the city, urban poor groups are extremely limited. If you do not have political voice you have very little chance to influence urban decision making.
UPA project coordinator Alice Murphy and the master of ceremony of the event said, “This signing of the covenant with a leading presidential candidate is the first in the history of the Philippine Republic. This signifies the candidates’ support of the urban poor and can lead to genuine change in how the government treats the urban poor sector when and if the two assume positions after election.”
The Covenant puts an end to forced eviction. It will not allow any public or private authority to evict families and leave them homeless in the street as is rampantly practiced in the country. It pushes for decent relocation with quality housing, adequate basic services and sustainable livelihood support.
It also calls for more land proclamations and upgrading; more Community Mortgage Programs; doubling of education and health budgets that prioritize poor communities; creation of public works that can generate substantial numbers of jobs for poor people; piped water and legal electricity connections for all poor areas; increase in the housing budget and the extension of land tenure security by all means possible.
“We are very thankful to Sen. Noynoy and Sen. Mar for signing the covenant. The gesture is greatly appreciated. More than that, it gives us, the urban poor, hope in a better future for our children without fear that the new administration will oppress us. Definitely, thousands of urban poor will cast votes in their favor,” said Jeorgie Tenolete President of Baseco Kabalikat and member of KOSMA.
The Covenant includes a post-Ondoy rehabilitation program. (Typhoon Ondoy was a cause of the government demolitions of informal settlers living along esteros, coasts, and riversides.) The rehabilitation program identifies remedies that do not require demolition and eviction as it searches for new ways to extend land tenure security to the poor, so they can live and work in the cities.
Part of the Covenant is the appointment of reform-minded persons to head shelter government agencies. The urban poor believe that if the appointed persons in HUDCC or NHA have really a heart for the poor the agencies will be more responsive, efficient, and effective in delivering housing services to the poor families.
Alice Murphy concluded, “We at UPA (Urban Poor Associates) have been fighting for the rights of the poor for the past 30 years. The signing of this covenant might begin to end the long and painful struggles of the poor to alleviate their sad living condition. We have witnessed indiscriminate demolitions and evictions in urban poor communities. In these challenging times, we see hope in the persons of Senators Aquino and Roxas”.