‘How can the poor stay at home when they have no homes?’ Police tears down makeshift homes of evicted community in Sampaloc

Human rights alliance Karapatan condemned on Thursday, April 23, the demolition of the makeshift shelters of more than 78 families in Maisan, Brgy. 432, Sampaloc, Manila, saying that the Philippine National Police did not show compassion, especially to Filipinos living in the margins of the society and who are, at the same time, most at risk to the dangers posed by the present pandemic.

Before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, at least four uniformed and armed men from the Manila Police District - Precinct 4 started the demolition of makeshift shelters of at least 78 families, threatening the residents that if they will not leave their homes, they will face arrest. The residents whose shelters were torn down are the same victims of last year’s illegal demolition in Manila and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s clearing operations which ceased their livelihood at the sidewalks of the country’s capital.

“The demolition of the makeshift shelters of the residents of Maisan in Sampaloc, Manila at a time when anyone is at risk of getting infected of the fast-spreading and lethal coronavirus disease is truly outrageous. This reveals to us that the government remains deaf to the people’s legitimate demands for genuine and mass-oriented solutions to this pandemic,” Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor said.

“We find it really ironic that the government, in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, wants to see everyone staying inside their homes, but at the same time, allows uniformed men to wrack the makeshift shelters of poor Filipinos who have been rendered homeless and who suffered a lot since the implementation of a militarist enhanced community quarantine,” he added.

According to the residents, the barangay chairperson and the local government of Manila were not aware of the said demolition that was conducted to allegedly pave a space for a Rapid Testing Facility and a quarantine facility as what the police said. The displaced residents are now staying inside a bodega facility without ventilation and because it cannot accommodate all of them, some of the residents were forced to seek shelter in the streets.

“With the tearing down of their homes, we are now deeply concerned of their welfare, as there are no plans at hand to make sure that the displaced residents will remain safe from the worsening threats of the coronavirus disease. Truly, as what we have said before, the Duterte regime’s actions will only pave the way for more human rights violations, especially with its militaristic approach which obviously broadens the reign of violence and the disregard of the poor,” Clamor said.

“We echo the call of the displaced residents for concerned officials to temporarily open the Moises Salvador Elementary School as an evacuation center. We also call on Filipinos to extend any kind of help to the residents of Maisan who needs assistance to survive from the struggles brought by this pandemic and the government which turns a back against those in need,” he ended.