Friday, March 5, 2010

Aquino and Roxas Sign Urban Poor Covenant


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”.


The Most Inhumane Demolition of the Year

News Release
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-

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