Economic rights of the urban poor violated as politicians favor private interests - Karapatan

“The mass arrest of 58 individuals, 17 of them minors and 8 are elderly, is a testament to how the urban poor are easily dismissed in favor of private individuals and businesses. We call on the attention of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista for such hypocrisy in his own backyard when he is among the designated panel advisers in the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Jigs Clamor on the arrest of 58 urban poor residents in Apollo, Tandang Sora, QC, on April 3, 2017.

Clamor added that “it is nothing short of ironic for Mayor Bautista to be advising the panel on issues such as socio-economic reforms when he himself has blatantly used the law and the resources of his office to favor private interests, failing to address the concern of his urban poor constituents who are in need of decent and adequate housing.”

The disputed 3,000-square meter area along Apollo Street in Brgy. Tandang Sora, Quezon City was the home of at least 146 urban poor households before they were violently demolished on June 16, 2016, just a few days before BS Aquino III stepped down as President. The residents faced two legal complaints by a certain Reynaldo Guiyab, one in 1999 and another in 2001. Guiyab’s claim was based on a Transfer of Certificate of Title (TCT) which was already deemed cancelled in October 1995. Given this, both cases filed by Guiyab were dismissed by the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch in 2000 and the Department of Justice in 2010, respectively.

The Apollo Neighborhood Association alleged that Guiyab then sought the help of the Quezon City local government. The QC City Hall then declared the Apollo community as a fire hazard to justify its demolition, despite the fact that there have been no reports of fire in the area for more than 30 years. A week after the June 16 demolition, Reynaldo Guiyab was able to acquire a barangay permit for fencing the lot. The families demolished were forced to build make-shift houses on the adjacent pavement.

“Some of the residents have been living in the area for more than 30 years when they were unjustly and violently demolished. They have a claim to the land and there are legal decisions affirming their claim to it. However, the powerful and the rich just need to call and collaborate with those in government and suddenly, the poor and their interests are bypassed. This is a clear case of how the rich and powerful can circumvent the law for their convenience, in cahoots with politicians,” said Clamor.

On April 2, 2017, 46 families returned to the lot after 10 months, in an attempt to reclaim the area. On April 3, around 4pm, elements of the SWAT and PNP, headed by QCPD station commander Col. Danilo Mendoza, arrived at Apollo street and started arresting the residents. Col. Mendoza announced that they acted on a complaint filed by Reynaldo Guiyab’s wife. No warrant of arrest was shown to the residents.

“It is most just for the urban poor to seek refuge in their collective action, especially when their rights are ignored and violated. This is increasingly so because legal processes tend to favor the affluent, the influential, and the powerful. The mass arrest is a reflection of the fascist character of the State, becoming more obvious when there is a need to protect privatization plans and other business ventures. Indeed, in this neoliberal setting, the poor does not win but are continuously pushed to the edge. The State should then expect resistance, because they give the poor no choice,” concluded Clamor.