DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 May) – There’s no relocation site provided for the 280 families displaced as authorities started the first day of demolition in Barangay 26-C Salmonan, Quezon Boulevard, Davao City on Monday, almost three weeks after it was delayed by residents who resisted the eviction last month.
A clearly exhausted Namraida Amerol sat by the door of one of the wooden quarters, which served as temporary depository areas for their belongings, that were put up inside the basketball gymnasium. She held back her tears while gazing at the ongoing demolition just across the street.
The 50-year-old Amerol, a Maranao vendor of assorted hair accessories at the nearby Agdao Public Market, said she earns between P200 and P300, which is sometimes not enough to buy her family food, much less to get her family a decent home.
She said her 12 children and grandchildren might just pack themselves inside the small wooden quarter for the time being. Amerol was raised in the community, along with other residents and families of the first settlers, who claimed they turned what used to be a swampy area into what it is today.
Their community is now claimed by Tausug Datu Bahajin Marcos Mahadali. The residents countered the claims of Mahadali by saying the transfer certificate title covers only a 1,003-square meter property in Barrio Tugbok, Lianga and not the 3,000-square meter property where their houses stand.
Amerol called the demolition team “heartless” for not giving them sufficient time to settle their belongings before they destroyed their homes and expressed disappointment to Mayor Sara Duterte for allowing this to happen.
Newly-appointed Urban Poor Commissioner Norman B. Baloro said in an interview on Monday that there is difficulty getting support for relocation and financial assistance from the local government as the illegal settlers previously refused to be tagged and covered in census, the basis for eligibility for “possible entitlements” that can be extended to them in accordance with Republic Act 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act, such as relocation site and financial assistance.
However, Baloro added they would still negotiate with the City Planning and Development Office’s (CPDO) Housing and Homesite Division to know if the families would still be able to access some kind of support from the city government for relocation.
He added he is willing to talk to Mahadali, who claimed ownership over the 3,000 sq.m. property occupied by the illegal settlers, if he can extend some “special financial assistance” in order to help affected residents sustain their daily needs.
The demolition will last until three days, Baloro said.
“I think the LGU can offer a staging area for the time being where they can stay. I think the CPDO under Housing and Homesite Division can look also into this. We, in the [Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor], will see if we can formulate a policy out of this situation,” he added.
In their April 24 dialogue with residents, Baloro said the residents, most especially the elders, were very firm in their decision to stay in their homes. The elders claimed they were born and raised there since the 1950s, he added.
“It’s sad to be homeless and we understand,” Baloro said.
The commissioner said they will continue to monitor, along with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), to know if there was an “inhumane demolition and eviction” of residents. But he maintained that the demolition went through a proper process because the court issued a writ of demolition and eviction, which was only implemented by the local authorities.
The City Government deployed personnel from the City Health Office to attend to individuals who may get injured during the demolition, from the Central 911 to respond to emergencies, and from the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) to give the evicted families food.
Meranaw deputy mayor Randy Usman said they just wanted to find relocation for the affected families. He said there’s still no word from the City Government what support it would give to them.
Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Director Alexander Tagum told reporters that around 1,500 police, police auxilliary, and Task Force Davao members cordoned off the area as early as 4 a.m. and closed a portion of the Quezon Boulevard to vehicles.
He said they executed the writ of demolition issued by the Regional Trial Court 17 after a few hours of negotiation with some community leaders, including Usman, who failed to present a copy of a temporary restraining order they claimed was issued by the Supreme Court.
“We are here to ensure the security and safety of everyone regardless if you are a member of the demolition team or among the informal settlers who claim ownership of this area,” Tagum said.
He added that as early as 5 a.m. social workers from the CSSDO and officers from the police’s Women and Children’s Desk assisted families to move out from their houses.
At least three individuals were arrested when they fought the police officers but they are temporarily placed under protective custody to prevent them from inciting violence while the demolition is ongoing, Tagum said.
He added no charges would be filed against them as they expected such resistance from the evicted families and that they vowed to maintain maximum tolerance in the operation that will last until Wednesday. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)