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No Home, No Rights, No Justice

October 31, 2005

(Ed. note: Human Rights at the Grassroots is a new regular feature of Human Rights SOLIDARITY that seeks to share with our readers the realities of life for people living in Asia’s rural and urban communities. This first story retells the experience of Filipino families who were forcibly evicted from their homes.)

Most of the hundreds of people of the Gov. P. Bangoy Sitio Dacudao Homeowners Association had been living in the Dacudao Compound in Davao on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines since the 1960s and 1970s. However, the 127 families residing in the compound and the 30 families renting there all became homeless on the morning of Oct. 19, 2004, when 800 men of Dacudao & Sons and 200 government officials and police officers arrived at 8:00 a.m. with bulldozers and dump trucks to forcibly evict them.

Shirley Paraguya, a resident of the compound, asked the officers for a demolition order, but the men destroying her home and possessions and those of her neighbors never produced one for her or any of the other residents.

Rupina Piano, who has lived in Dacudao Compound since the 1960s, mourned the loss of the “wonderful memories of the place where she grew old and raised her children” as well as the destruction of her home and belongings. A week later Rupina became ill, and walking began to be difficult for her.

Overall, it is estimated that the damage caused by the demolition was almost 9 million pesos (US$164,610).

With nowhere to live, the residents built shanties along the road in front of the Dacudao Compound, inhaling the toxic fumes of vehicles as they slept and ate their meals. A week later they found themselves without water and had to ask people in neighboring communities for help.

The people’s hardships, however, only got worse. On Nov. 4, officials from the city engineer’s office demolished even their shanties, claiming that they were road hazards. Presently, the people of the Dacudao Compound are still waiting to be relocated and resettled by the city government of Davao.

The claims over this land, an area of almost 1.3 hectares, have a long history. In September 1957, the land was designated as a public market by Dacudao & Sons in their approved subdivision plan, which, under the provisions of the law, would normally be donated automatically to the city government of Davao. Over time, people began to live informally in the subdivision. Later, however, their dwellings were demolished to make way for large businesses and Chinese people who wanted to buy lots, and they were relocated in the open space designated as a public market in the subdivision. Some families were resettled as early as 1963.

Decades passed, and the residents formed the Gov. P. Bangoy Sitio Dacudao Homeowners Association, which filed a petition with the Davao City Council in November 2002 asking the city government to adopt an ordinance formally stating that the area where they live be declared a permanent relocation site in accordance with the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992 and that this site be awarded to the homeowners association.

A legal battle subsequently ensued between the association and Dacudao & Sons. A legal opinion was rendered by the Davao city government on June 3, 2003, stating that the land did not belong to either party and that instead it was government land. Through their lawyer, the homeowners association on June 20 argued in their response to this decision that under the UDHA of 1992 the unused area allocated for a market that has not been used for the purposes for which it was specified for more than 10 years since March 26, 1992, is a priority area for socialized housing that should be awarded to the homeowners association.

Instead of being awarded a right to the land, however, the residents received their first removal order from the city engineer’s office on Aug. 8, 2003, which ordered them to move in 15 days because they did not have building permits for their houses. The members of the homeowners association lobbied the city council though, and the council issued a resolution requesting the city government to suspend the demolition order.

More than a year passed without any progress. On Sept. 23, 2004, Dacudao & Sons sent a certificate to the national secretariat of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) claiming that the residents of the Dacudao Compound had been offered free relocation lots in Cabantian, Buhangin, Daliao, Toril and Davao. Moreover, the company said they were also offered 10,000 pesos (US$183) in financial aid and assistance in dismantling their homes and transporting their belongings. On the same day in Manila, Percival Chavez, the chairman and chief executive officer of the PCUP, gave approval to the city government of Davao to evict the people, stating that the city had met the conditions of the UDHA of 1992 for demolishing the houses and noting that the landowner would provide a free relocation package to each family as certified by the city government.

The homeowners association reacted by filing a civil case on Oct. 11 asking the court for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. Before the court rendered a decision, however, Dacudao & Sons and the Davao city government acted, demolishing 98 structures, including the community’s chapel, in the Dacudao Compound eight days later without a demolition order from the court. The promised plans for the people’s relocation and resettlement, however, have never materialized.

On March 1, 2005, PCUP Commissioner Luzviminda Salcedo of the Field Operations Division for Mindanao said in a letter to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), “The commission [PCUP] required the city government of Davao to issue certification of availability of resettlement and relocation for them [the evicted families], which the city had submitted. However, sad to say, the certification merely became a scrap of paper.”

Apparently, even the Philippine Constitution of 1987 that states that “urban and rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner,” is just a scrap of paper too, for clearly the city government of Davao has ignored the country’s relevant laws on evictions and demolitions and has acted heartlessly toward members of the homeowner’s association. Meanwhile, the people who formerly lived in the Dacudao Compound are awaiting a home and justice.

(Ed. note: To read additional details about this incident and support the evicted families, please see AHRC's urgent appeal at www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2005/967.)

Bruce Van Voorhis

Bruce Van Voorhis serves as missionary with the Asian Human Rights Commission located in Hong Kong.  He serves as a writer and editor with the Commission.



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