“People are asking the demolition team to show documents authorizing the demolition but they could not show anything. They just said it was Mayor Robert Eusebio’s orders, and they did not need to show papers.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – For the past 10 years, 48-year-old Rowena Villano and her family managed to survive every day making do with their meager income. Their house in Sta. Lucia village, East Bank Road Floodway in Pasig City was small and made of light materials, but it was their sanctuary, which gave them relief at the end of the day, and also from house rental expenses. Their life changed in a snap when the Pasig City government demolished their houses.
Villano said the local government was so eager to demolish the houses in the East Road of Floodway that it took them just three days – from Oct. 18 to 20 – to clear the entire East Bank Road. At least 1,000 families were evicted.
“They started the demolition from end to end. It was non-stop. They (local government) mobilized all forces, from the local police, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine National Police and even Special Weapons and Tactics forces. In just three days, all houses were turned into dust,” Villano said in an interview with Bulatlat.
On Oct. 25, the evicted Floodway residents put up what they called the “homeless camp” at the foot of Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge). They hold President Duterte and the Pasig City government accountable for their current state. Villano said Duterte promised, during his campaign, that he is for the poor and that there will be no demolition without relocation.
“I hope Duterte will give justice to what happened to us. If it were not for the poor, he will not become the president. Majority of the poor voted for him,” the emotional Villano told Bulatlat.
Women and their children are the mainstays at the camp while some of the men are still in the demolition site, retrieving their belongings, which were strewn all over the streets. Villano said the local government gave an ultimatum to the remaining Floodway residents who are still in the area to leave as soon as possible or their things will be brought to a relocation site in Tanay, Rizal.
Education and livelihood in peril
Children are most affected in the demolition of their homes, said “Nestor,” 26, a member of Balikwas Kadamay and a renter in Floodway. He requested not to be named because of the continued harassments against the evicted residents and Balikwas Kadamay. He said the demolition team used a backhoe to totally demolish the houses.
“Nothing was left standing,” he said.
With the coming semestral break for All Saints Day, Nelson said, those who remain on the streets of Floodway endure their condition because children have to go to school.
Villano had to rent a space for her seven children in the nearby area in Floodway so that five of her children could continue their studies while they continue the fight for their homes. But Villano knew that this would entail additional expenses for them.
The rent for the small space is P4,000 ($77) per month. She described her children’s condition as packed in a can of sardines.
Her two older children were both contractual workers and her husband is a UV Express driver. Before, she said, the meager income of her husband and children could suffice for their needs as she maintained a small garden of vegetables at the back of their house. She sold vegetables in the market to augment their budget. But now she foresees a more difficult life ahead with the loss of their home and livelihood.
“Masakit talaga ang kalooban ko. Hindi lang kabuhayan ang inalis nila sa amin, pati kinabukasan ng mga bata,” she told Bulalat. (I am really hurting. They took away our livelihood and the children’s future.)
The additional expense for rent would eat up a chunk of her husband’s daily income of P500 to P700 ($10 to $14) a day. Add to that the expenses for utilities and the children’s projects in schools.
“It is difficult to earn P4,000 ($77) for the rent every month. What if we couldn’t pay for a month or two? We would be evicted again. It’s like being demolished all over again,” Villano said.
Ma. Estrella Castillon, 50, meanwhile, was not able to rent a space for her son and her partner’s son. The boys, Grade 11 and Grade 6 respectively, are both with her in the camp. She is anxious about the children’s schooling because they could not afford to rent a space in Pasig near the children’s schools. Her partner was terminated from the construction company because he was absent for three consecutive days due to the demolition. Castillon, for her part, sells street food.
Castillon was from Cebu and has been living in Pasig for four years. She was a widow when she came in the capital to work as she did not pursue her application to work as a domestic worker abroad. Now that she and her partner are both unemployed, she worries that her son would not be able to continue studying.
“I hope this would be solved soon. I am worrying about my son’s education. How could he continue? He has one more year to finish (senior high school),” she said weeping.
No regard for the poor
Since August of this year, there were already attempts to demolish the houses in Floodway. But it was delayed because of the strong resistance of the residents.
But this time, the authority forcibly demolished the houses. Nestor said the demolition team had no mercy and continuously destroyed every house until Oct. 20.
Villano said they were shocked that even the homes of those who did not avail of the P20,000 ($388) financial assistance for relocates were also demolished. Both Villano and Castillon did not avail of the assistance but their houses were still demolished.
“People are asking the demolition team to show documents authorizing the demolition but they could not show anything. They just said it was Mayor Robert Eusebio’s orders, and they did not need to show papers,” she said.
Nestor said the local government was not even prepared to give assistance, as there were no details where to go if anyone would avail of the assistance.
Villano lamented that politicians beg for votes from the poor during elections, but their promises turn to air when they win.
“Ba’t nila ginawa ito sa amin? … Ngayong nakapwesto na siya, ganito ginagawa niya sa amin,” she said in Filipino. “Mga wala silang puso,” (Why are they doing this to us? Now that he is in power, he treats us like this…They are heartless) she said.
For now, Villano said they would strengthen their ranks for their struggle for housing. She does not know until when they would hold their camp at Mendiola but she hopes that Duterte would at least hear their plea.