CALAMBA CITY, Philippines—Simultaneous with the visit of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Luisiana, Laguna on Monday to sign a law that would save 368,535 delinquent housing loan borrowers from homelessness, at least 150 families in the village of Real here stood against a demolition team to defend their homes at around 1 p.m. Monday.
The defiant families were about to lose their homes in Sitio Kabute to demolition ordered by Branch 92 of the Calamba Regional Trial Court on September 11.
The residents, with wood sticks on hand, barricaded the area to block the armed police and security guards and the demolition team.
The demolition team tried to disperse the residents with water cannons after they refused to leave their barricade.
Nante Eclavea, regional staff of Bayan Muna (Country First) Southern Tagalog, said there were around 50 members of the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group in Calabarzon carrying high-powered guns and about 30 members of the demolition team.
“Those from the demolition team were the first to hurl stones at us and fire water cannons,” said Eclavea.
He added that two residents were injured in the clash.
Glen Malabanan, paralegal officer of Karapatan (Rights)-Southern Tagalog, questioned the absence of name plates on the police deployed in the area and claimed that they violated the 50-meter radius rule of Batas Pambansa 880.
BP 880 restricts the presence of the police to 50 meters away from a rally.
“After the issuance of the demolition order, residents have already put up a protest camp in the area to protect their homes from the demolition and to assert their right to the land now being claimed by the Metrobank,” Malabanan said.
Members of the RMG could not identify their leader and refused to give any comment.
Eclavea said they were told that Sitio Kabute was a property of Metrobank.
A representative from Metrobank, who refused to be identified, said there was already a court order to demolish the area.
He added that the residents' appeals were already dismissed by the court.
"Everything here is legal," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
He said Metrobank had the rights to the 2.8-hectare land after the former owner, Gotesco Properties Inc., failed to settle its loan obligation.
"The Gotesco properties only allowed the residents to settle on the land," he added.
Bayan Muna secretary general Arman Albarillo said "the residents have been settling here even before the Gotesco claimed the land. It is not true that they allowed the residents to occupy the land."
He said most of the families settled in the area during the 1960s since no party restricted them from doing so.
Mila Elupre, 54, a resident of Sitio Kabute since 1960s, said the city mayor and the Metrobank conspired to displace the families residing in the area.
“We tried to seek the help of our mayor but he did not render any help. There's a conspiracy taking place," she claimed.
Mayor Joaquin Chipeco said his office has been trying to negotiate with the officials of Metrobank to give the residents a relocation site.
"It's not true that I am not doing something for the residents. I have been talking to the bank's top officials, but after the residents staged a rally at the main office, the chance of having a relocation site seemed not possible," Chipeco told the Inquirer.
Local authorities demolished the residents’ houses for the first time last January 8 but since they had nowhere to go, the people moved back to the area.