February 24, 2010
Three hundred Muslim residents living around the grand mosque wrote to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asking her to donate the 2.8 hectares lot occupied by the mosque on the reclaimed land in Manila Bay, Pasay City.
Abdelmanan Tanandato, leader of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Nademolis sa Roxas Boulevard, recalls that this is not the first time they appealed to the president.
“In march 18,1999, at the time of the first attempt of demolishing our place of worship, I ran to her when she was still the vice-president in the old PICC building along Roxas Boulevard. I knelt down before her and she stopped the demolition. The violent eviction last year in our place has not yet been settled. And yet, we hear stories going around of another demolition operation against our community and our mosque. We think that it is only the president who can end the problem over this disputed land, by donating the lot where our community and the mosque are located,” said Tanandato.
Three months ago, on 18 November 2009, the entire nation saw the most violent demolition undertaken by the government against Muslim residents living around the mosque. Many Muslim residents were injured while some sustained gun shot wounds when the Pasay Policemen opened fire at members of the community who were resisting the demolition. This incident was on the front pages of all major Philippine broadsheets and tabloids and the newscasts of television networks especially among the international community.
In the letter, the Muslim residents said, “We are ordinary simple folks and do not wish to have this kind of attention. And we sincerely wish that our country does not receive such kind of media attention. All this will only breed bitterness and anger, which we do not want to harbor in our hearts, especially among our young.”
Imam Mus-ab Baniaga, the secretary of the people’s organization, clarified that, “they have resisted demolition and eviction from the very beginning because they believe that evicting the community will also mean demolishing the mosque which the Koran strictly prohibits. That is why, they are appealing to the president to exhaust legal venues to arrive at an amicable settlement because they will defend the mosque against destruction in whatever way they can.”
In the letter, they also asked the president to order a halt to demolitions and withdraw the memorandum of Secretary Eduardo Ermita instructing government agencies to relocate the mosque to Lot 51-55 in Parañaque City.
The group cited that, “the Lot 51-55 where the government intends to have the mosque relocated is claimed by one Bernardo de Leon and the same land is occupied by more or less 200 families. It means the land cannot be used as a relocation site.”
Last year before the bloody demolition happened, 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 (COPE) Foundation advised the government to let the mosque stay side by side with the Baclaran Church as a symbol of national harmony between Christians and the Muslims.
Tanandato reiterated, “If the president will heed our call, this act of donation will be her most beautiful and powerful legacy in her years as the president of the Philippine Republic. And we, the Muslim residents around the mosque will be forever grateful to her.” -30-