Violent demolition in San Juan

21 January 2012

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The homes of several families living in an urban poor community in Corazon de Jesus (CDJ) in San Juan City were violently demolished on January 12. Up to 20 residents were illegally arrested and 31 wounded (two seriously) after a composite group of more than 600 elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and members of a demolition team forced their way into Narciso Street where the urban poor had put up a barricade.

The residents were unarmed and used whatever items were available in their communities to actively defend their homes. Even before the demolition, state forces had long been assaulting and intimidating the residents. Military forces were deployed within the community. Members of progressive youth organizations were placed under surveillance. Community leaders were slapped with trumped-up charges and arbitrarily arrested.

Up to 400 families had already been evicted in 2010 and more than a hundred other families are now affected. The attackers used water cannons and tear gas against the barricaders to forcibly evict them. Through sheer police brutality, the demolition team was able to force its way into the community and tear down the houses. Most of the residents are now temporarily housed in makeshift shelters within Corazon de Jesus through the help of church workers. They have remained in the area and are ready to fight the local government’s next move. In the face of intensified oppression, they are asserting their dignity through allout and militant resistance.

The residents had twice been awarded the land under the past regime. When the local government of San Juan refused to acknowledge this, the residents asked not to be brought to farflung relocation sites and be transferred within the city and their living conditions improved. But the San Juan government led by Mayor Guia Gomez and the Estrada clan likewise refused this compromise.

The Estradas plan to put up a posh City Hall on the more than one-hectare lot that once hosted the demolished houses. Other construction projects include a condominium, commercial shopping areas and a parking lot. The Estradas have partnered with a big bureaucrat involved in the mall construction business. The entire plan falls under the Aquino regime’s Public-Private Partnership Program. Like others of its kind in Metro Manila, this project also serves as payment for Aquino’s debt of gratitude to big bureaucrat capitalists and political allies who put him in power. The same story is behind other pending demolitions in communities in North Triangle, Pangarap Village, Welfareville and Freedom Island, to name a few.

In just over a year, the Aquino regime has become notorious for its violent and inhumane demolitions that have caused suffering to the urban poor. They are no different from the Aquino family’s brutal treatment of peasants struggling for genuine agrarian reform in the countryside.

Progressive organizations, patriotic sectors and the church have assailed the violent demolition and have asked Congress to investigate.The Kabataang Makabayan and the National Democratic Front in the National Capital Region hailed the residents, especially the youth who stood up and defended their homes and their rights in Corazon de Jesus. The Communist Party of the Philippines praised the CDJ residents’ resistance and their courage and determination in collectively confronting the Aquino regime’s schemes to drive them away from their homes. Said the CPP, there will be many other attacks by the regime on the urban poor because of continuing projects under the PPP. Nonetheless, the people will not relent in organizing and mobilizing to resist the regime.