March 05, 2010
Some 243 families lost their homes when the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Navotas City Government demolition crews and Navotas policemen forcibly demolished 100 shanties along Road 10 Navotas today.
Prescilda Juanich, the leader of Samahang Pinagbuklod ng Pagkakaisa (SAPIPA) said in tagalog, “Our houses were lawlessly demolished by the government despite our efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement of the issue. We feel the government values the road widening project more than us.”
The residents of Navotas together with the Task Force Anti-Eviction (TFAE) 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), had several dialogue with government agencies about the implementation of the demolition.
On January 21, the group had a dialogue with Senior Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan of DPWH to call his attention to the matter when the first attempt at demolition in the area turned violent. The people pleaded with the DPWH to halt the demolition pending the resolution of the petition for injunction before the Supreme Court.
On February 26, a hearing in the Commission on Human Rights was held by Chairperson Leila De Lima. Affected families sought her help to investigate the violent demolition that happened along Road 10 in Navotas involving personnel of the local government, DPWH, Navotas Engineering, Navotas Police and Navotas Fire Station. Some16 women, among them old ladies, were beaten up by Policemen and dispersed by the Navotas fire station using a water cannon on the people, mostly women as they formed themselves as a human barricade to protect their houses from the demolition team.
The most recent dialogue was held at the National Housing Authority, March 4, with representatives from DPWH, Cong. Leandro Montemayor, Atty. Bienvenido Salinas, SAPIPA legal counsel together with the Navotas families rendered homeless by the violent demolition conducted by the same agencies in the first week of March. In the meeting, the families explained that they no longer had houses to go back to. They asked NHA to provide them with a relocation site, reminding NHA that they are part of the 11 priority areas that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promised to relocate in Montalban last August 1, 2008. Overcome with emotions the residents cried and asked the government agencies present at the dialogue to defer the demolition of the remaining houses.
The government agencies would not heed the call of the residents. The residents present at the meeting told them they would not leave the NHA and they would camp inside the conference room to stop the demolition. It ended with an agreement that the government representatives present in the meeting would be in Navotas on the following day to prevent any demolition.
However, no public officials came to the demolition site.
UPA Deputy Coordinator Ted Anana said, “This is the most cruel and inhumane violent eviction and demolition ever done by the government during an election year. This is not just a violation of their shelter rights but a violation of their rights to vote because many of the affected residents are voters. Demolition endangers their right to vote since they have been rendered homeless.”
Even the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) condemned the demolition saying that it is illegal. In a letter to the DPWH PCUP Chair Percival Chavez says, “Relocation is mandatory if the demolition is administrative in nature such as the case of Road 10 Navotas. Financial Assistance does not suffice.”
Angelita Villaruel, one of the women beaten up by the Navotas police, had her picture taken by a photojournalist carrying a Sto. Ñino in her arms while she was forcibly evicted from her shanty. She said, “We deserve to be respected. Our houses might be an eyesore, but we tried to live in the city to be the best citizens of this country by providing our service to the government and private companies. I now realize that the poor are only used by politicians and this administration to get the sympathy of other countries to get funds, but look what they have done to us--They removed our basic right to have a shelter .”
The poor do not have the required residence period to vote in relocation areas.
The TFAE and the Road 10 residents are calling on the President to provide them a decent relocation site in Montalban and urging the Commission on Election to impose a demolition moratorium to avoid more urban poor being disenfranchised because of demolition. -30-