Informal settlers in Barangay 463 in Intramuros, Manila are facing the possibility of sleeping on the streets at the height of the COVID-19 crisis after their moratorium to vacate the area lapsed Thursday, more than two years after then Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada canceled the demolition of houses of about 300 families in the area.
Some have tied their homes as they fear eviction anytime soon and residents were emotional, especially those who have been residing on Legazpi St. for more than 40 years.
The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7, in a two-page demolition order issued on Feb. 5, 2018, stated that L.G. Mathieson Development has “sufficiently proven” that it was the registered owner of the property where the informal settlers were residing.
But Estrada ordered the Philippine National Police to stop any demolition upon its implementation in the same year in compliance with President Duterte’s “no relocation, no demolition” policy.
In a letter submitted by Rodel Maang, vice president of the Samahan ng mga Naninirahan sa Legazpi Intramuros, dated Sept. 4, 2020, residents are asking for another proper dialogue with the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) to settle their relocation area first before their houses are demolished.
“Kami ay muling humihingi ng pulong kasama ninyo upang ihinto ang nakaambang demolisyon habang walang maayos na relokasyon para sa pamilya,” he said, stressing that the pandemic will surely endanger the lives of the evicted families.
(We are again asking for a dialogue to halt the demolition while the relocation site for the families is yet to be fixed)
Though there were no demolition teams Thursday, residents say that authorities might surprise them to finally destroy their shanties.
“Nakakuha po kasi ng police assistance ‘yung may-ari ng lupa sa hindi tamang proseso,” Maang said.
(The land owner secured police assistance through the wrong procedure)
A document, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Bulletin, cites that Manila RTC Branch 7 Sheriff Manuelito Viloria is asking for police assistance, through National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Police Major Gen. Debold Sinas, to implement the writ of demolition issued by Manila RTC Branch 7 Judge Acerey Pacheco in relation to the case.
Sinas replied in a formal communication dated July 29, 2020 informing him to coordinate with the Manila Police District (MPD).
But Commissioner Melvin Mitra of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) said the demolition will not materialize without a certificate of police assistance issued by his office as prescribed by Republic Act 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.
“Gagawa sila ng action na hindi namin alam hindi nagcoordinate sa amin. Hindi sila sumunod sa tamang protocol,” he said in an interview.
(They are making actions without coordinating with us. They are not adhering to the right protocols)
“As of now, walang binibigay sa amin ang PNP na any form of communication, same with the Office of the Sheriff,” he added.
Mitra also clarified that what was submitted by Viloria to the police is only a letter, not a certification to carry out the demolition.
“Pinipilit ng sheriff na laktawan ‘yung process ng PCUP,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, in a letter submitted by Intramuros Administration (IA) Administrator Atty. Guiller Asido, dated Sept. 21, 2020 to PCUP, he said they are still in the process of identifying the area of relocation through the assistance of Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC), the housing partner for the implementation of the SIMPLE program.
“Please note that IA is not a housing agency and this is the reason why we have partnered with SHFC on the implementation of the program,” he said.
The target resettlement areas for these families are in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan and Intramuros but subject to approval of IA and SHFC.
“But everything was affected because of the pandemic. The SHFC Board is now trying as well to resolve issues and concerns on the site as well,” he said.
Asido and Mitra hoped that both parties would respect each other, moreso now that there is a pandemic.
“I hope the private owner will be more considerate,” Asido said.