Words by Kyn Aguirre
Residents of Sitio Maligaya, San Isidro Sur, Sto. Tomas, Batangas took to the streets last March 18 to air their calls against persisting demolition and eviction threats.
According to the Maligaya Homeowners Association, over 20 houses were already demolished for the construction of the Malvar-Sto. Tomas Diversion Road, a project under the Regional Development Investment Program (READ: 17 houses in Sto. Tomas, Batangas demolished to make way for road construction).
The residents went to Batangas 3rd District Engineering Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to directly express their grievances against the project.
Addressing the blatant disregard on their rights, the residents reiterated, “Sino ang makikinabang sa kalsada? Pawang mas mayroong karapatan ang mga kotse kaysa sa aming mga tao. Hindi kami itinuturing na tao ng DPWH kundi parang mga abala at dumi lamang na sumasagabal sa kanilang proyekto.”
[“Who will benefit from the road? It seems like cars have more rights than us, people. We are not treated by the DPWH as humans, but only as obstruction and garbage that hinder the success of their project.”]
The residents also went in front of the Sto. Tomas City Hall to directly voice out the effects of the approved Malvar-Sto. Tomas Diversion Road.
They emphasized that 200 families will lose their homes, whereas their relocation is too expensive. They added that there are no concrete plans for the residents, despite demolitions beginning in 2020.
Mayoral candidate Hon. Dingdong Meer and Councilor candidate Hon. Rey Meer joined the residents during the program.
Despite the peaceful mobilization, Maligaya Homeowners Association posted a Facebook photo of a SWAT vehicle following the protesters.
“Itigil ang pag-atake sa mga mamamayang nasa laylayan!” the association emphasized.
[“Stop the attacks on marginalized citizens!”]
Destroying the rights to proper housing
Demolitions in Sitio Maligaya began in 2020 despite the lack of written notice or compensation to the residents.
The demolition in Sitio Maligaya violates the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 or Republic Act (RA) 7279, which provides a “comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program”.
The demolition violated a section of RA 7279 that enacts that residents must be given a notice for at least 30 days prior to their eviction or house demolition, and that adequate consultations must be done with the affected communities before the demolition proper.
The Maligaya Homeowners Association insisted in their Facebook post, “Ang mga mamamayan ng riles ay mayroong Certificate of Lot Award simula pa noong 2001. Ang kahabaan din nito ay kinikilalang Socialized Housing Project. Kaya bakit sa oras pa talaga ng pandemya, maya’t-mayang pagsirit ng presyo ng bilihin, at sa kabila ng matibay naming pruweba ukol sa aming paninirahan, iniraratsada ng DPWH ang iligal na panggigiba ng bahay?”
[“Residents near the railway have possessed the Certificate of Lot Award since 2001. Our residence is also a Socialized Housing Project. Why does the DPWH push through with the illegal demolition at a time when there is a pandemic, a rise in prices of goods, and despite our strong evidence regarding our residency?”]
Residents call on Filipinos to stand with their fight against the illegal demolition.
“Pakinggan ang aming panawagan! Magkaisa ang malawak na bilang nating nasa laylayan! Tara na at tumindig para sa ating karapatan sa paninirahan,” Maligaya Homeowners Association wrote.
[“Hear our calls! Unite with the marginalized individuals! Let us stand for our rights to proper housing.”] [P]