Saturday, July 10, 2010

Urban Poor Seek Prelate’s Help to Stop Evictions

Press Release
July 10, 2010

People’s Organizations and Task Force Anti- Eviction, an NGO group, are holding a rally at the Pope Pius XII Center during the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines semi-annual meeting. Children will pray to “Bro” a name used for Jesus in a popular soap opera, to ask the bishops to help stop illegal evictions.

A letter given to Archbishop Nereo Odchimar, president of CBCP read, “We write to inform you that the old practices of illegal forced evictions, demolitions without relocation and other injustices have started up again. Within a day of the president’s inaugural speech, the practices resumed as if nothing had changed.”

Evelia Balili, Secretary of Samahang Magkakapitbahay sa Pechayan (SAMASAPE) of North Fairview near Tullahan bridge, confirmed that their 197 members were threatened with demolition a day after the president’s inauguration. Twenty house owners were offered Php 8000 and asked to sign a waiver that takes away the residents’ right to relocation. Their former leader, Myrna Porcare, was killed last year in an eviction related incident.

“We have not forgotten the brutal killing of our leader Myrna and her teen-age son. They were shot to death in our community by the private security guards of a private claimant who claims he owns the land in question. Justice is still pending in the courts and until now, we are victims of housing rights violators and new violations are being committed against us,” she added.

The Church issued two pastoral statements, in 1997 and 2007, about the nation’s housing problems. It issued another pastoral letter in 2009 where the death of Myrna Porcare is mentioned. It also spoke of the evils of distant relocation.

“Through our peaceful assembly, we are sending a message to the Bishops that they must help the poor push the President to immediately order a halt to demolitions until the government prepares housing solutions including acceptable relocation,” said UPA Deputy Coordinator Teodoro Añana.

The church has said, “the government is often perceived to act without sufficient sensitivity to the plight of the poor, especially when the demolitions come without sufficient warning, without provision for adequate relocation sites, and with brutality (A Pastoral Statement on the Homeless, 10 July 1997).”

Añana concluded, “We are in a new phase of governance, we likewise want to retain the good image of the new administration and the Church can help by reminding government of its obligation to follow the provisions of law in matters of demolition.”

Task Force Anti-Eviction said, “This is the right time for the Church to urge the new government to create a government-church-civil society commission that will provide guidelines for the further development of our cities so that the urban poor will have a decent place to live in. In the 1997 Pastoral Statement, the Church stated that the chairperson of this body should be acceptable to the government, the Church, the poor people affected, and the NGOs.”

The groups also expressed fear that without the Church intervention it is business as usual - evictions will grow in number and poor people will be left homeless again on the streets. -30-

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