December 2, 2008
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino
The leaders of some 500 homeless in Paranaque who occupied a vacant prime lot in Merville last Saturday met Mayor Florencio “Jun” Bernabe in a dialogue at the city hall. The Paranaque mayor had asked the urban poor leaders to him in a bid to resolve the housing issue.
Robert Labrador, president of the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP) in the Metro South area, Nena Olbina, secretary of AMP-Metro South and Eduardo Casuy, president of the Paranaque chapter of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), represented the urban poor in the dialogue.
Labrador asserted in the dialogue that “It is just a few days before the world celebrates Human Rights Day and we demand that the government observe it seriously by respecting the people’s right to housing. The occupation by the homeless was within the bounds of the law since City Ordinance No. 0013671 series of 2000 signed by the former Mayor Joey Marquez ordained the expropriation of the vacant lot owned by Molave Corp.”
While the dialogue was ongoing, around a thousand urban poor assembled at the former vacant lot turned makeshift community in solidarity with those who had occupied the disputed land. The urban poor assembly was convened by AMP and PM with chapters from Cavite, Las Pinas and Paranaque in attendance.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. Eight years of heat and rain is much too long waiting for people without roofs over their heads. That is the reason why the homeless were forced to occupy the vacant lot,” argued Olbina.
Casuy added that “Today we are honoring our pledge to dialogue and negotiate with the government for a peaceful resolution of the issue. But tomorrow we are ready to defend our homes against any attempt at demolition. The least the government can do in a time of crisis is not to demolish the houses of the poor and destroy their livelihood.”
On the eve of Heroes Day the homeless started building makeshift houses in a direct occupation of the 1.2 hectare lot owned by the Molave Corp. which is one the biggest lots in Merville. It sits right beside a recently built condominium and supermarket by the Gokongweis, and is just a stone’s throw away from the SM mall in Bicutan. Most of the urban poor who direct occupied the vacant lot came from the Tucuma Federation who originally petitioned for the expropriation of the land. Others were victims of a violent demolition that happened November 30, 2005 in the nearby Cul-de-sac area on the instigation of Tony Leviste who the people alleged only illegally acquired the disputed land.