Urban poor group slams arrest of 15 Manila Seedling Bank workers, activists

“First they tried to get rid of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. Now they want to get rid of plants and trees. What is next? Pushing for the transfer of government offices like the Philippine Science High School and the Office of the Ombudsman to make way for even more commercial expansion?” – Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — On International Human Rights Day, urban poor group Kadamay slammed the arrest of 15 workers of the Manila Seedling Bank and activist-residents of North Triangle in a protest action in front of the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

Kadamay, in its statement, called for the release of the 13 arrested workers and two residents after the scuffle of protesters who were trying to get inside the Manila Seedling Bank in the afternoon of Dec. 9.

Protesters came from a rally during Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista’s State of the City Address on Dec. 9. Upon returning to their community, members of Kadamay related that the protesters were angry over the closing down of the Manila Seedling Bank earlier that day and insisted to go inside the vicinity of the seedling bank, which resulted to a brief scuffle.

On Dec. 10, members of Kadamay and progressive youth organizations trooped to the Quezon City Hall of Justice. Security guards, police and two firetrucks barricaded the Hall of Justice.

Police tried to close down the seedling bank in the morning of Dec. 9, reportedly due to its unpaid taxes amounting to $1.3 million. The Manila Seedling Bank, according to a Sunstar report, also failed to secure a mayor’s permit and building permit.

Around 150 workers, 60 employees and 50 small entrepreneurs would be losing their livelihood once the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation is shut down.

The arrested workers include Victor Gando, Darwin Eleoterio, Peter Lagtawan, Abelardo Manaois, Rafael Monteoro, Melchor Mariano, Pablito Semon, Prudecio Espina, Irvin Pocong, Ruben Dalanon, Fortunato Olog, Allan Simon and Diosdado Velasco. Two residents of North Triangle Sylvia Attala Fortuno and a 14-year-old girl were among the arrested.

The 14-year-old’s sister Del said, in an interview with Bulatlat.com, she was informed that her sister was on her way home from the protest action when the police started arresting the protesters.

During the arrest, Del’s sister was dragged by some ten policemen. “They pulled her hair and there were policemen who touched her breasts. Even when they were already inside the police vehicle, they continued to hurt her,” she said.

Her sister is now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

As of this writing, no charges have been filed against the arrested residents and workers.

QCCBD project behind the close down

Carlito Badion of Kadamay said Quezon City local government wants to close down the Manila Seedling Bank to give way to the Quezon City Central Business District, a 256-hectare project that would supposedly put the city at the forefront of foreign investments.

The Manila Seedling Bank is located along Quezon Avenue corner EDSA, just beside the community of North Triangle, which the government is also planning to demolish for the project. There are still about 7,000 families residing in North Triangle.

Badion said that aside from the Manila Seedling Bank, the government is also trying to displace the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, a government hospital, for reportedly failing to pay taxes.

The Quezon City local government claims that they offered stall owners of the Manila Seedling Bank to continue their business within the vicinity of the Quezon City Memorial Circle.

“Residents who are working in there strongly oppose this,” a statement of Kadamay read.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, for his part, said that the “levied lot will eventually be used for a high-rise commercial center that faces EDSA, which, developers claim, will become the second tallest tower in the world.”

“First they tried to get rid of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. Now they want to get rid of plants and trees. What is next? Pushing for the transfer of government offices like the Philippine Science High School and the Office of the Ombudsman to make way for even more commercial expansion?” Zarate said.

He added that, “this is aggressively pushing so-called development that primarily benefits foreign investors at the expense of communities and nature.” ()

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