By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
(Second of two parts) Fortades and Gomez were killed when the security guards of Araneta’s Carmen Development Inc., allegedly drunk, opened fired at the vigil site set up by the residents protesting the demolition. Six others were injured in the shooting.
The guards were watching over the property being claimed by Gregorio Araneta III, who is from a wealthy and landed family in the Philippines. In 1973, this property had been awarded by then president Ferdinand Marcos to its residents, when he cancelled through Presidential Decree 293 Araneta’s claim to 156 hectares under then Carmen Farm Inc.
Since then, according to Benjamin Serioso Jr, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Pangarap, a local organization of its residents, the land was awarded to the people under the banner of “land for the landless.”
Among those who benefited were the Malacañang Home Owners (Malacañang employees), the urban poor and families who had bought parcels of land in Pangarap Village.
But under President Corazon Aquino, the Supreme Court, in a decision en banc in 1988, declared Marcos’s PD 293 as null and void. It asked the local government of Caloocan City to intervene and settle the case “amicably.”
Since then, the people of Pangarap Village who had thought they had achieved their dream had to begin fighting for their rights to their home.
Aranetas, with Aquino help, use force, power and money to claim huge tracts of land
The struggle, said Serioso, has been an on-and-off battle with the Aranetas through the years. But in late 2010, the Aranetas renewed and intensified their efforts to blot out the residents of Pangarap village. It coincided with news about the $1.12 billion contract for the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the MRT Line 7 project, reportedly a 22-kilometer rail system from San Jose, Del Monte, Bulacan to MRT Line 3 station in North Edsa.
Serioso charged that the MRT Line 7 would benefit Araneta’s interest in building a financial, commercial and industrial zone in Pangarap Village. He said it would fall under the Public Private Partnership (PPP), which is President Benigno Aquino III’skey economic project.
“This is just a small portion of Aranetas’s wealth. Why don’t they just take pity on us and leave us alone,” said Teresita, mother of Sol Gomez.
Struggling to keep their homes in Pangarap
Now that Fortades and Gomez are gone, their kin are determined to fight until justice is served.
“But even if I cry tears of blood, I know that nothing would happen,” Teresita lamented. “They killed my son and we will seek justice for that. If they continue to respond to our struggle for Pangarap Village with violence, even if I am already old, like my son, I am ready to die for this cause,” she declared.
Sevilla, Fortades’ widow, is sad that Fortades had been killed. But she said her respect for her husband had soared higher.
“He risked his life for this cause. And our struggle will continue to intensify even though they are gone. If he had not cared for Pangarap, he could have just abandoned it all then. But he did not.”
“I will continue the legacy of my husband,” Sevilla said.
In a solidarity mission among the residents of Pangarap Village, church people arrived to listen to their plea for redress and their vow to press on with the struggle of the families of the victims and everyone else to be affected by the demolition. The solidarity, said Sevilla, has warmed their wounded hearts and raised their spirits as she reckoned that they are about to embark on a long, winding road in search of justice.
“Bearing the burden together makes it easier and lighter,” said Rev. Jeanelle Ablola of United Methodist Church – California Nevada Annual Conference. She added that she had always thought of Jesus as an activist, “but it was only when I visited the Philippines that I learned what it meant.”