Text and photos by Anjon Galauran
Residents of Barangay (village) Old Capitol Site in Quezon City successfully halted demolition operations of 18 homes on Tuesday, February 10, after barricading their community. They urged the University of the Philippines (UP) administration, title owner of the land, not to demolish homes in the barangay without proper relocation. Due to the people’s assertion, UP officials talked with barangay leaders and agreed to halt demolition orders until relocation within the community is established.
“Ang napag-usapan doon sa loob, hahanapan sila ng lugar dito, sama-sama sila lahat yung 18 families na kasama sa ide-demolish…pansamantala munang binibigyan sila [ng pahintulot sa mga kasalukuyang bahay] habang tinatapos yung kabila [relokasyon] [During the meeting, it was agreed upon that the 18 families whose homes were supposed to be demolished will be allowed to stay in their present homes while relocation is still being secured],” Barangay Administrator Ricardo Mabacyao explained.
The community was asked to submit a proposal for their suggested relocation spot for affected homes. Based on the resolution of the meeting, the relocation must be far from the creek, to avoid hazards during flood season. Further, the suggested relocation area must not be too far from where the other houses already stand to avoid a “dispersed” community.
According to Anakpawis Partylist UP Diliman member JR Beltran, the agreement to find a near-site relocation for those affected is already an initial victory for the residents of Old Capitol Site.
“Paglipat [sa malapit na relokasyon] o pag-tirik sa initial ay tagumpay ito, sa tuloy-tuloy na paggiit sa karapatan ng mga mamamayan at maralita [Moving to a near-site relocation and being allowed to temporary rebuild homes is already an initial victory won through constant struggle of the people and the urban poor for their rights.],” he said.
Beltran commended the people’s collective effort in urging the barangay to speak out for the community’s welfare.
“Sa inisyal na laban ng mga maralita na tinanggalan ng mga bahay, napa-position natin yung barangay na sa tagal ng panahon na nanahimik [Through these initial efforts of the urban poor who were threatened to be demolished, we were able to position the barangay who, for the longest time, have kept mum on the issue].”
A home without a roof
In September 2014, blue guards of UP demolished a total of 18 homes within Barangay Old Capitol Site. Ten of them were given notices of demolition, but the other eight were not notified.
Gloria Fernandez, a resident, affirmed the sudden demolition of homes last September.
“Nagulat nalang ako na walang pasintabi na giniba nalang nila [I was shocked that they suddenly began demolishing homes],” Fernandez said.
“September 22, nagpasabi sila [guwardiya]. Nandito yung anak ko kaya di nila giniba. Pero nung September 23, binalikan po nila, wala po silang binigay na notice [Last September 22, the guards said they were going to demolish homes that day. However, because my son was at home, they did not pursue with the demolition. But on September 23, they suddenly returned without any notice of demolition],” she said.
Since the demolition in September, Fernandez narrated that her family lives in a home without a permanent roof.
“Sa ngayon, nagtitiis kami sa araw walang bubong, sa gabi lang kami naglalagay [Right now, we endure living without a roof during daytime. We only set it up at night],” Fernandez said.
Similarly, Lloyd Alfanta Bahalla, another resident, also lived without a roof since the September demolition. Bahalla cited fear of the blue guards as the reason why they do not place a permanent roof.
“Kabit lang sa gabi, baklas sa umaga para wala silang [guards] makita. Para kunwari walang tao. Sisitahin kasi nila yun [pag may bahay dito] [We attach roofs at night and remove it at daytime to make the guards think no one lives in this place. They will reprimand us if they find out we are still in the area],“ he said.
Blue guards belong to the Glocke Security Agency under the Task Force on Squatting, Community and Housing Utilities (TF-SCHU), a team built under the supervision of the Office of the Chancellor, to monitor and demolish illegal structures or self-built units within the UP campus. “Illegal structures” are housing units that were not covered by the 2011 Barangay UP campus census.
“Gusto lang rin naming na maitayo yung bahay namin para magkaroon naman kami ng normal na buhay, hindi yung ganito na kami habambuhay na nakatiklop yung bubong namin [All we want is to set up our homes and live a normal life. We do not want to live this way forever, having to fold our roofs every now and then],” Fernandez said.
However, due to the victorious dialogue, homes were now allowed to construct roofs. Residents immediately began construction of their homes later that day.
According to residents, the demolition threat to several communities within the UP Campus is in line with the UP Master Development Plan, the development framework of the UP Diliman campus which designates the land-use zones of the campus.
Among zoning areas determined by the master development plan include areas for academic use, science and technology, resource generation, residential and mixed-use zones, community services, green areas and parks, among others.
Informal settlers may be accommodated according to the residential mixed-use zone, but depending on the length and attribute of the stay, types and quality of service rendered and quality of dwelling.
Residents, however, fear they may not be accommodated under the master development plan and could potentially result to displacement of several urban poor communities in the UP Diliman Campus without arrangements with residents who will be affected.
UP Diliman Campus is home to several urban poor communities and communities that are originally sites of employees’ houses given UP’s lack of housing units.
Victory won through struggle
Prior to the dialogue, members were up early in the morning, setting up banners with the sign “Demolisyon, Tutulan, Labanan [Oppose and Fight Demolition].” Residents huddled into a group to discuss their situation and fortify their campaign in defense of their homes. Several residents from nearby UP campuses also supported the Old Capitol Site residents’ resistance to the demolition.
Several barangays are also facing eviction, according to Beltran. Among them include communities in C.P. Garcia Avenue, Pook Malinis, Brgy. Pook Libis and Krus na Ligas.
Past 10 in the morning, nearly 10 blue guards, some carrying shotguns, approached the community and gave out copies of “Notice of Demolition.” The Notice of Demolition stated that if residents do not self-demolish within a week, there will be a forced demolition to be carried out by the TF-SCHU. The document was signed by Atty. John S. Barona, Chief Administrative Officer for Security under the Office of the Chancellor of UP Diliman.
The guards also urged residents to discuss their concerns with the security office, rather than talk with the media. Blue guards also evaded questions from the media.
Residents, however, maintained that they will defend their homes at all cost.
The blue guards eventually left the area, prompting residents to seek a response to the situation from the barangay officials.
Barangay Captain Mauricio Gutierrez denied knowledge of the demolition.
“Nag-aantay kami ng notice na dumating naman sa barangay para masabihan namin yung mga tao, mapa-alalahanan namin kung ano ang dapat nating gawin. Pero walang dumating na notice sa barangay [We were waiting for a notice so that we can inform the people what to do. However, no notice arrived],“ Gutierrez said.
Residents urged Gutierrez to speak with the UP administration.
The community rejoiced after the dialogue with the UP administration. But until the actual relocation materializes, Beltran says is too early to determine the fate of the community. The residents expressed that the UP administration and its guards will live up to its word not to carry out the demolition.