Violent and bloody demolition at the Silverio Compound
News video footages anddocumentation by citizen media groups showed members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) armed with M16 rifles firing indiscriminately as they dipersed residents who formed a human barricade to try to stop police and demolition teams. Also shown were scores being arrested, bloodied and beaten up even as they were already in the custody of the police.
“Bato lang po at mga katawan namin ang aming pangdepensa sa aming mga bahay, pero tinapatan nila kami ng mga sniper at mahahabang baril,” said the residents.
After several rounds of volley gunfire, Arnel Leonor Tolentino, 21 was confirmed dead by gunshot on the head and several others also shot in vital areas are in critical condition. Not a few residents have gunshot wounds in their arms and legs, some as young as 15-16 years old.
Ready for battle
“Naghihimagsik ang aming kalooban sa karahasan na ginawa sa amin ng gubyerno. Alam namin na pupunta sila para gibain ang mga bahay namin, yung barikada at mga bato ay para ipagtanggol ang aming bahay. Pero bakit sila nambaril, bakit kinailangan nilang pumatay?” said Shella Bernal, a community leader in Silverio.
According to Bernal, truckloads of police and SWAT personnel came early in the morning and was clearly geared for battle.
“Yung iba sa kanila, hindi naman taga-Paranaque yun. May mga snipers pa sa taas ng building,” said the residents.
Congressman Edwin Olivares and former Congressman Ed Zialcita, seeking to prevent a violent confrontation also helped negotiate and mediate between the police and residents.
“Hindi mapakiusapan ang mga pulis na ‘yun. Alam mo kapag kakaiba ang tapang nila eh, hindi sila nasisindak man lang. Nagnenegotiate na nga kami, eh bigla naman silang nag-teargas. Yun na,” said Zialcita.
Various accounts from residents, negotiators and media confirm that tensions rose when the police shot teargas canisters at the barricade. Residents threw the canisters back at the police and hurled stones to keep the police away from the barricade. Then, shots were fired by the SWAT team aiming at the residents.
Arnel Leonor Tolentino, 21 was seen lying on the pavement and was later confirmed dead by gunshot.
“Yung katabi ko, si Raymond Aquino, asawa nung chairwoman ng vendors assouciation, sa dibdib tinamaan, parang patay na eh,” said Roy Velez of Anakpawis NCR. Aquino was initially among those reported dead but was later found in the hospital in critical condition.
Among those shot was Rodman Ortega, a 16 year-old resident, which was shot in the right arm which shattered his bone.
“Pinauwi ko na nga siya, kasi baka madamay pa nga. Patawid lang daw siya at bigla siyang tinamaan sa braso. Pag-uwi nya parang nakahandusay na at duguan. Kaya pinuntahan ko nga yung mga pulis at pinagmumura ko eh. Wala naman kaming baril, bato lang, bakit kami ginanon,” said his father.
According to his father, Ortega was refused treatment by a nearby hospital after failing to pay P15,000. Medics from people’s organizations which conducted a fact-finding mission later attended to him.
Paranaque City Mayor Jun Bernabe and police forces later claimed that only “blank bullets” were used.
The police later made random arrests, video footages showed plain clothesmen apprehending what appeared to be minors, passersby and some women. Videos also showed bloodied residents already handcuffed but still being beaten upby the police. A total of 33 were arrested, 8 of them minors and 2 women.
According to the residents, after the police managed to enter the community and conduct the demolition of their talipapa, they raided houses, rounded-up men and arrested residents.
“Nagsona sila, binahay-bahay nila at aarestuhin daw lahat ng kalalakihan, kaya marami ang nagtago, hindi din makalabas at makapagpagamot yung may mga sugat. Nahirapan din kumuha ng impormasyon,” said Velez.
Velez had to be wrapped in bedsheets and pretend that he is sick in order to get out to report to people’s organizations what transpired and seek help.
According to the reports, the 9.7 hectare Silverio Compound, home to at least 28,000 families is set to be demolished to pave the way for the construction of condominiums and commercial establishments owned by billionaire Henry Sy, owner of SM Development Corporation (SMDC).
Yesterday, as the news of the violent demolition rages, an “@officialsmdc” twitter account was created to tweet denials that SM owns the lot and that is is planning to build condominiums in the area. SM also releasedadvertisments to deny links to the demolition.
However, in government documents obtained by the residents, SMDC is indicated as a “housing development partner.”
Incidentally, a SM Hypermarket supermarket stands directly accross the compound.
“Dinemolish nila yung talipapa kasi kompetisyon sa katawid na SM. Pero simula pa lang yan kasi ang plano nila katabi na ng supermarket yung mga condo at commercial complex,” said one of the residents.
The residents say the demolition of the “talipapa” will affect the livelihood of more than 1,000 small vendors and fishermen in Silverio. Besides, they said, these “commercial” establishments are also residential areas.
“Naglagay lang ng lamesa sa labas, pero sa loob may nakatira,” they said.
Mayor Bernabe said there will be no relocation for the homes already demolished.
Bernabe, in his interviews, have confirmed the plan to commercialize the lot. He was quoted in the media saying that the lot will be used for commercial and income generating purposes for the city. He also said the demolition is to pave the way for a plan to build a medium rise housing project to accomodate some 1,800 families (out of the 28,000) using 3 hectares of the compound, the rest will be subject to commercial use.
This however, is contrary to the plan the Paranaque government originally intended for the compound.
The compound has earlier been placed by the local government for distribution to residents through the Community Mortgage Program. In 2003, a city ordinance have been issued to expropriate the land to be distributed. A deposit of P10 million have reportedly already been paid by the goverment for the residents.
“Ang aming paglaban ay makatwiran sapagkat ang lupa ng Silverio ay inilaan para sa mga taga Silverio Compound at hindi para kay Henry Sy at mga negosyante,”said a statement from Kadamay Paranaque.
In fact, residents said, the legal battle now pending in the courts is only regarding how much compensation the local government will pay the previous land owners and how much the residents are set to pay.
To their surprise, a few months ago, the local government started announcing plans to partner with SMDC to build condominium units. Rumors circulated that SMDC had already paid a hefty sum of money as “downpayment.” Last March 7, the local government started the demolition of commercial areas and homes near the highway.
“Tuyo nga ang ulam namin eh, magcocondo pa kami? Sana isipin nila yung kapakanan ng tao, hindi ng mayayaman na,” said an angry resident.
A sign put up outside one of the houses said “Hindi kami squatters, babayaran namin ang lupang ito.”
The residents said they tried to dialogue with the Mayor and the city government and held several rallies in front of the city hall to no avail.
“Palibhasa last term na ni Mayor, malapit na magretire, siguro nag-iipon na yan. Lupa na para sa tao, ninegosyo pa,” said a resident.
On April 10, 2012, a notice to demolish Purok 1 and 4 was served to the residents. On April 19, a city council resolution signed by majority of the councilors and the vice mayor seeking to stop the demolition was reportedly drafted and was submitted to the mayor.
Bernabe refused to implement the resolution and the demolition pushed through.
Various groups including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Makabayan Coalition, Anakbayan, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), Anakpawis, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Karapatan condemned the murder and the violent demolition. BAYAN led a fact-finding, first aid and solidarity mission to Silverio compound after the incident.
“There should be no whitewash regarding the incident, and there should be an independent, speedy investigation on the matter. The violence against the urban poor must be stopped, those arrested must be freed immediately,” said Bayan.
The groups noted that while what happened was one of the worst cases of violence against urban poor, this is not the first time something like this has happened under the administration of Benigno Aquino III. According to Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, more than 40 cases of violent demolitions have been documented under Aquino.
“Mas marami pang mga ganito dahil sa programa ng gubyerno para sa ‘kaunlaran’ kuno pero para sa lang sa mga crony at iilang mayayaman. Para sa mahirap ang Aquino PPP ang ibig sabihin: pagpatay, panunupil at pambubusabos,” said Mariano.
According to KADAMAY, the Aquino administration’s programs encourage these “violent, heartless acts against the poor.” The systematic and widespread demolition of urban poor communities show the anti-poor, pro-elite character of the current administration.
KMU notes: “This reminds us of a term used during the elections to describe a Noynoy Aquino government: ‘massacre prone.’”
Pinoy Weekly notes that the reign of impunity under Aquino has emboldened the shooters: “Wala siyang takot, alam niyang hindi siya pagpapanagutin. Sa ilalim ng administrasyong Aquino, standard operating procedure na lamang ang pamamaril sa mga sibilyan.”
“Hinahabol nila yung eleksyon, baka sunigin nila kung hindi nila sa susunod kaya dapat magbantay,” said a resident.
In a solidarity program held after the demolition, various sectorsexpressed their support to the community and called on the people to continue the fight “oppression and corporate greed” and struggle for their right for decent homes, jobs and genuine social change.
The sentiment expressed by the people in the program was unanimous: the fight continues.
No amount of lies, repression and state terror from Bernabe, Sy or Aquino will stop them from further strengthening their ranks and defending their homes; not only for the sake of the current residents of Silverio compound, but also for all the poor people being murdered, oppressed and robbed of their rights, and in the name of those who died struggling for a better future.
Written for BlogWatch