A member of the demolition team suddenly grabbed Maybellin Fronda, 2 years old, resulting in a spinal injury even if her mother was already about to leave their house to give way to the demolition.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – While a nurse was preparing to put dextrose on 2-year-old Maybellin Fronda, she only stared at her. One of the nurses whispered that she is a “rare” patient. Children, she said, normally cry whenever they insert needles on them. Maybellin then let out a small cry and continued to stare as the nurses securely taped her dextrose.
“She’s been a good fighter ever since we arrived here,” Frelin Fronda, her 28-year-old mother, told Bulatlat.com.
Maybellin was hurt during a demolition of an urban poor community in Bignay, Princeville in Hulo Dulo, Valenzuela City. The demolition team arrived early morning of May 31, 2013. No court order to demolish the homes was served to the residents. Instead, a representative from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWS) talked to the residents and advised them to leave their homes. Frelin said they were told that financial assistance would be given to the families.
According to urban poor group Kadamay, the community, where about 213 families reside, is considered by the government as a danger zone because it is right beneath the transmission lines of the National Power Corporation. The said demolition, however, occurred just two days after urban poor groups and the Department of Interior and Local Government signed an agreement that there would be no demolition along the so called “danger areas” in the National Capital Region until they meet again to discuss a possible solution for informal settlers.
The said pact was not only reported by media but was also posted at the DILG’s website.
Frelin said before the election, they heard rumors that their houses would be demolished but not until after the election. The notice of eviction lapsed last May 21. Kadamay said, “no less than 500 men in red shirts, who comprised the demolition team, implemented the demolition (on May 31) escorted by several trucks of policemen and a fire truck.”
Frelin, not wanting to bring trouble to her children, agreed to go with the DSWD. But upon returning to her home to fetch her four children and their things, she saw members of Bantay Bayan, security forces from the city government, in their house.
“They told me to move fast because they have more homes to demolish. He told me to take our things while they bring my children outside,” Frelin said, “But isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?”
Frelin said she did not allow the member of Bantay Bayan to take her children. “They said I am hard-headed. I told them I would not fight them and that I have already agreed to leave. But when I was about to go, one of them suddenly grabbed and took (Maybellin). She, of course, resisted.”
Frelin, who is six months pregnant, could not take Maybellin from the demolition team on her own. She followed them to where the DSWD told them to stay and soon found her daughter sitting and looking down.
No money for hospitalization
“I thought she was alright. I even lined up to get the food from the DSWD. We were told that they would return with our financial assistance, but they never came back. Only the backhoes returned to continue the demolition,” Frelin said.
With so many things happening at the same time, Frelin said, she did not right away notice that there was something wrong with Maybellin until it was already night–time. Her two-year-old daughter refused to eat, not even one bite.
The following morning, she told Bulatlat.com that her daughter could not stand on her own and while sitting down would just fall on the floor. She and her neighbors were all worried but Frelin did not know where to go and where to get money if Maybellin needed to be hospitalized. She and her husband Rodolfo do not earn much as workers for a junkshop. Together, they earn about $15 a week. Frelin, for her part, works extra to pay for her children’s schooling.
On June 1, Frellin said, she was supposed to ask neighbors and friends for money so she could bring Maybellin to the hospital. But the demolition team returned. “I told them there should be no demolition during Saturdays. But they said it was ordered by the mayor.”
“I panicked. I had spotting. Good thing my neighbors were good. They gave us food,” Frellin said.
Two days later, members of Gabriela, a women’s group, arrived in their community. Frellin said they advised her to secure a Certificate of Indigence at the barangay office and to immediately bring Maybellin to the hospital.
Insufficient help from government
Before heading to the Philippine Orthopedic Center, the taxi driver advised Frellin to bring her daughter first to a radio program to appeal for assistance. Pressured by the media attention, the DSWD gave Frellin $61 and $23 for Maybellin’s CT scan. The DSWD, Frellin said, also promised to shoulder the hospital and laboratory costs of Maybellin.
At the hospital, she said, doctors advised her to have Maybellin confined. “(Doctors) pinched her legs and there were times when she did not respond,” she said. Doctors said Maybellin has a spinal cord injury.
The $61 was not enough to cover for their needs. Even though the Philippine Orthopedic Hospital is a public hospital, Frellin said, they still needed to buy medicines and food. The collar brace Maybellin needed to wear was already worth $12.
At times, pregnant Frellin skipped meals because they do not have money. But she still feel blessed with all the help she is receiving, not from the government, which, in the first place, inflicted the injury to her daughter. She is grateful for the support of concerned people who dropped by and give them food and money.
“They did not introduce themselves. I remember there was a group of church workers who visited Maybellin but I could no longer remember their names,” Frelin said.
Maybellin was supposed to be discharged from the hospital last weekend. Frellin was told that her daughter’s spine has already healed. But on Saturday, Maybellin had fever. “This is why I really want her to undergo MRI just to make sure she is okay now.”
“If my daughter is completely healed, why is she not walking on her own? Why can’t she sit up on her own?” Frellin tearfully said.
Frellin said she is asking President Aquino through the DSWD to help her secure an MRI for Maybellin to make sure she is already well. She also urged the president to put a stop to demolitions, adding that she does not want others to go through the same bad experience she and her daughter had.
Kadamay said, “Maybellin is just one of the thousands of victims of violent evictions of the urban poor from their communities and source of livelihood under Aquino’s presidency,” Gloria Arellano, president of Kadamay, said.
The local government of Valenzuela has extended the one month deadline for the remaining residents of Princeville to leave their community. Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian promised residents of an off-city relocation program in the provinces of Rizal and in Bulacan, which, according to urban poor groups, is even more deadly with the lack of source of income and for being prone to heavy flooding.
Residents said they are going to assert their right to remain in Princeville. “We would rather leave in a danger area than let our family starve in a far-flung government relocation program,” Ricardo Gagap, a resident, said.