Philippines: Reprisal against Housing Rights Defenders

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Philippines: Reprisal against Housing Rights Defenders
By: AHRC, Based on the documentation by Defend Job
06 December 2012

On November 29, 2012 at 3pm, Marites Bacolod was inside the Barangay Hall of Corazon de Jesus, San Juan City, to collect her Barangay (village) Clearance Certificate when the policemen “invited her for an interview” to their police station. Here, Marites learned that she and nine other residents of Corazon de Jesus were subject to arrest for charges of “simple disobedience to an agent of a person in authority.” The clearance she was to collect had evidentiary value on Marites and villagers to claim the land where their property had been demolished.

The arrest orders were issued after Marites and her companions failed to appear in a court hearing in May 24, 2012. Marites, however, was not aware about any court hearing and did not receive any notice or documents about her case and the arrest warrant.

When Marites, a person with disability who uses crutches due to an accident, questioned the legality of her arrest, the police placed her in handcuffs, harassed her and repeatedly pushed her to force her to ride inside the tricycle going to the police station. Many residents witnessed the incident. Marites argued that she would only go with the policemen if they could explain why were arresting her. She told her fellow villagers not to be afraid and to fight for their rights. Four other members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) were also involved in her arrest.

Despite the actions of the policemen being illegal those who had witnessed the arrest were too frightened to help because the policemen in civilian uniform had warned them that that “anyone who will help Marites Bacolod, shall also be arrested and detained.” Also, when Marites was at the police station where she was detained, an intelligence officer approached her and told her that they were in pursuit of her other colleagues from Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa - Corazon de Jesus (SAMANA).

Prior to her arrest, Marites and other villagers had conducted a series of meetings in the community and filed complaints with the United Nations (UN) complaint mechanism, notably with Ms. Raquel Rolnik, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. You may read the full text of their complaint here and here. The largest meeting was on November 17 beside the newly built city hall of San Juan and within the Corazon De Jesus community. It was attended by the majority of the families victimized by the forced eviction.

They complained about the violent eviction of their community in January 11, 2012. Marites and nine other leaders and residents of Corazon de Jesus had also been charged earlier with illegal assembly for opposing the demolition; but, the case had already been dismissed. Marites and other residents have refused to accept the relocation site for them in Montalban Rizal because it removes them from their source of livelihood.

You may also watch on YouTube the videos during the demolitions: Video 1, Video 2.

On May 2012, Ruel Sumaguingsing, the chairperson of their village, had already refused to issue Marites her Barangay (village) Clearance Certificate and to ten other young residents of Corazon de Jesus for reasons that their houses had already been demolished. Ruel’s refusal to issue certification that Marites and her fellow villagers would legally deny them the right to continue their claim on the land in the community.

Also, more recently on November 27, a Truth Cinema was held by Tudla Productions and SAMANA showing videos of condition and struggle of Filipino people, which reportedly angered the Mayor Guia Gomez and scolded Ruel. It is clear that the arrest of Marites, the charges filed on her and other residents, were a result of their demand to reclaim the land they had lived in for many years.

Please write letters to the concerned government agencies below asking for their adequate intervention, particularly the withdrawal of the charges filed on Marites and other residents as a result of their demand to claim their land. Also, the government must also ensure that its prosecution and the police are not used as tool to persecute villagers.

The AHRC has also written separate letters to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Adequate Housing and on the situation of human rights defenders for their immediate intervention on this case.

Dowaload report

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Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-198-2012

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