“The new wave of demolitions along Agham Road in sitio San Roque, Quezon City, wreaks of violence and wanton disrespect for basic human rights. From the looks of it, not even an iota of humanity was present during the demolition.” – Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Homes of residents of an urban poor community in North Triangle were demolished today, Jan. 27, to supposedly give way to the 11.3-meter road widening project along Agham Road in Quezon City.
At around 6:00 a.m., around 1,000 police, members of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and a demolition team arrived in North Triangle. In response, residents barricaded their homes.
The first wave of demolition took place at around 9:30 a.m., where some 40 to 50 houses, according to Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)-San Roque, were demolished.
A clash between the police and residents erupted again at around 12:30 p.m. The police fired tear gas canisters. Residents retaliated with stones and bottles in their effort to save their homes from demolition.
As of 4:00 p.m., Ghay Portajada of human rights group Karapatan said 13 residents were arrested namely: Rosalino Castro, Jasper Rafael, 18, Gilbert De Silva, 20, Donald Yungson, 24, Harly Largo, 21, Ricky Ho, Carlito Istapia, 21, Jhoross Roman, 19, Rodolfo Pisante, 36, Jay-ar Reyes, 25, Alex Liparep, 46, and minors Junior Mangaraig, 16 and Richard Chiong, 17.
The group also reported that 13 children suffocated from the teargas; a two-month old baby had to be rushed to the hospital; also affected were three old people, a pregnant woman and two sick residents.
Couple Brix Mercado and Peng Opable were hit by policemen wearing civilian clothes. Opable told Bulatlat.com that they were dragged by the police away from their house.
Another resident, Eric Sardido, 26, was given first aid for head wounds. He told reporters he was trying to padlock his pedicab to secure it when a stone hit his head.
Estrelieta Bagasbas of the September 23 Movement and a known leader in the North Triangle community lost consciousness during a scuffle when she attempted to negotiate with the police to free Largo, one of those arrested during the demolition.
Lorna Concepcion, a resident near the Manila Seedling Bank, said she and other residents had a meeting with representatives of the National Housing Authority, the police, Quezon City local government and village officials in Camp Karingal in October 2013 to discuss the 11.3-meter road-widening project. She said the demolition team did not honor what they discussed in the meeting as the team demolished houses beyond the red line that was earlier marked to show which structures would be removed.
Her own home, in fact, was destroyed in the first wave of demolition today. Concepcion and her three children do not know where they would be spending the night.
“The people of North Triangle were already here, long before Ayala and Trinoma came,” Sevillano Luna Jr. of Anakpawis Partylist said during a press conference, referring to the malls owned by rich Ayala clan.
Illegal, no dialogue
Luna said the demolition was illegal. The notice of demolition, he said, has already expired months ago. He added that no court order was presented to the residents, as required by the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.
In a previous Bulatlat.com report, 156 families received a letter from the local government inviting them to a consultation meeting on April 19.
Bagasbas said residents are not convinced that the demolition was intended just for the road-widening project. The residents believe that the demolition is meant to give way for the Quezon City Central Business District, a 256-hectare project. Bagasbas said a similar reason was given to former residents along Edsa but instead of road-widening, a high rise condominium is now being constructed.
Youth group Anakbayan said in a statement that there is no legal basis for the demolition. “The demolition team is using an expired court order dated September 2013. They were not given any advance notice by the proper authorities, as mandated by law.”
Anakbayan also demanded for the release of their members who were arrested during the scuffle as they were only assisting children who were affected by the teargas fired by the police.
“No one wanted to hold a dialogue with us,” Gloria Arellano, chairwoman of Kadamay, said.
Leon Peralta of Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon said the UDHA stipulates that government agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights, National Commission for the Urban Poor, the local government, among others should be present during a demolition.
“We have been looking for them today but we could not find them,” Peralta said.
Luna added that the presence of the demolition team and the police is overkill. “It would lead to nothing but violence and possibly even to a massacre,” he said.
Though Leo Mendoza, a resident of North Triangle, would not be affected by the supposed road-widening project, he still joined his neighbors and expressed his solidarity in the fight against demolition.
“I am a witness to nearly all the attempts to demolish our community. The demolition back in 2010 is more violent than now. But both have resulted to residents losing their homes,” Mendoza, 29, said.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap arrived during the demolition. He held a short dialogue with Col. Procopio Lipana of the Quezon City Police District, who said the police have no hand in the demolition and that they were only there to maintain order.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, for his part, deplored the demolition of homes and the utter disregard for the welfare of the residents.
“The new wave of demolitions along Agham Road in sitio San Roque, Quezon City, wreaks of violence and wanton disrespect for basic human rights. From the looks of it, not even an iota of humanity was present during the demolition,” Ridon said.
Ridon said the Makabayan bloc in the Lower House would initiate a congressional inquiry on the demolition.
“No demolition order. No dialogues. Just pure brazen violence. And the police even nabbed the already harassed residents. This is impunity, this is injustice in its rawest and steeliest form,” Ridon, a lawyer, added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said demolition of homes is not the solution as it would “only exacerbate the problem and trample on the rights of the urban poor sector. The government must instead solve unemployment.”
In a statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said, “not only has Aquino failed to create decent jobs that will help alleviate the condition of the urban poor, he has also continued destroying the homes of the urban poor. He persists on demolishing the homes of the urban poor and dumping the poor to far-flung relocation sites that do not provide opportunities for work and do not have basic services like electricity and water.”