Monday, March 22, 2010

Urban Poor Ask the Comelec to Ban Demolition

Five hundred urban poor people marched to Comelec and filed a petition-letter to ban demolitions during the election period. The people’s organization and housing rights organizations including Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise Foundation (COPE), brought with them a 1-meter high improvised Precinct Count Optical Scanner machine that emits a big ballot saying, “No to Demolition”. The group also changed the meaning of PCOS to People’s Concern Over Suffrage.

UPA, a non-government organization that concentrates on evictions of urban poor people, pointed out that there are 804,562 urban poor voters that could be disenfranchised because of the on-going massive demolition and distant relocation conducted by the government.

UPA Legal Counsel Bienvenido Salinas said, “This May 2010 election is expected to create change in the Philippine Governance and it is people’s right to exercise their right to vote and to elect leaders. Hence not a single voter should be denied this right. Forced evictions and relocating informal settlers to distant places in time of election is unlawful as they will surely disenfranchise members of the urban poor. Hence, we urge Comelec, the most powerful government agency during elections to ban demolitions and distant relocation.”

One of the basic human rights recognized in the international instruments of human rights is the right to vote as guaranteed by the Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The said right is reiterated in Section 1, Article V of the Philippine Constitution.

Estrella Terencio, president of UPSAI and former railway dweller in Makati was relocated in 2006 to give way to the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project said, “When we were forcibly relocated to Cabuyao, Laguna more or less we had 4000 voters prepared for the 2007 election. But only 400 were able to vote because most of us were not yet settled in the relocation site and did not have the required six-month residency.”

“Political candidates in Makati even filed a petition for exclusion against us who were relocated to Southville Cabuyao, claiming that we had ceased to be bonafide residents of Makati City. We are one with all the urban poor facing demolition in calling on the Comelec to ban demolitions because we know that they could also be disenfranchised just as we experienced in the last election”, she added.

Nilo Cosino, residing in Manggahan Floodway Pasig City and affected by the E.O 854 of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said, “The government rehabilitation project of Manggahan Floodway will relocate 24,000 voters along Pasig before the May 10 election to Calauan, Laguna, 100-kilometers away from Pasig. For this reason we are afraid that many of us will not be able to vote because we are registered in Pasig City and the transportation to Pasig to vote would cost P300 round trip, too much for a poor person.”

UPA monitored that beginning this year from January to March 3,043 families have been evicted compared to only one demolition last year in the same period. For example, demolition is taking place in Manggahan Floodway, C-5 Road Project, and Road 10 Navotas which turned violent. If this trend continues for the year, it will go against a commonly held observation that the numbers of evictions and demolition usually go down during a presidential election year.

“In 1998 presidential election a decrease of 107% of families evicted and in 2004 presidential election 366% steep decline of families evicted in Metro Manila was recorded. It is obvious that politicians once considered the urban poor as vote banks but now it is different, because rampant demolition is witnessed during this presidential election year,” said UPA Deputy Coordinator Teodoro Añana.

Añana concluded that, “Many urban poor communities are ready to make the May 10 election meaningful for them and their children. However, some think the evictions are turning out to be a way for politicians to deprive them of their fundamental right to vote and to frustrate their desire for meaningful political change. Together with the urban poor we are asking government, especially the COMELEC, to impose a ban on demolitions for this election year.” -30-

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