April 23, 2012. A demolition in Silverio Compound in Sucat, Parañaque City made a turn for the worst as informal settlers in the area stood their ground against police and the demolition team. Initial reports state that the ensuing violence claimed one life and injured more than 30 people.
City mayor Florencio Bernabe, in a press conference, stated that only the “talipapa” or flea market was slated to be demolished that day. The settlers’ houses would also be demolished, but at a later date. Bernabe said they need to talk to affected families first before doing that. If the second demolition pushes through, the settlers would temporarily be relocated along Coastal Road in Pasay City while the local government redevelops the compound into an income-generator for government programs, and a low-cost housing project, where the settlers could later return and legally reside in.
Dragged into the issue was the name of SM Development Corporation, which was rumored to construct a condominium in the area. SMDC has denied the allegations in a statement.
Honestly, I’m somewhat clueless as to what really happened at Silverio Compound. Office people like me measure the gravity of the situation only with words and still pictures on the Internet. Only the parties involved can speak for themselves and state valid reasons behind their actions.
With that said, I opt instead to raise questions regarding what happened on that day. Just like National Geographic Channel’s Seconds from Disaster, we dissect every angle in this story, every motive of the characters involved, every ingredient leading to the outcome.
I hope that the answers to these questions serve as a guide for us before we pass judgment and point fingers at anybody.
Over the next few weeks, excerpts from news reports and news sources would be pasted below the questions. You are free to answer the questions yourselves, if you have knowledge of it, or if you have sources. Please do so in the comments section. 🙂
On the Demolition Violence >>
- How did Arnel Tolentino, the lone casualty, die? Was his death directly caused by police/demolition team, by accident, or because of self-defense on the part of the police and demolition team?
- Which side “fired the first shot”? Was there any intention to start the violence? Was there provocation by one side to force the other into reacting violently?
- Was the violence preventable?
On the Demolition Itself >>
- Had the demolition team gone beyond their target area, the flea market? Was there a house demolished that shouldn’t be?
- Who sent the demolition team into the area? Was it a scheduled demolition?
- Was there an ordinance or court order allowing the demolition?
- Was there also an ordinance stopping/postponing the demolition attempt?
- If ever there were both, and were effective at the same time, which one should be followed?
On SMDC’s Alleged “Involvement” >>
- Has SM Development Corp. ever planned on constructing a residential/commercial project in Silverio Compound?
- Did SMDC ever plan on acquiring the compound to construct a condominium?
- If it was not SMDC, was there any other company planning to buy and use the land?
On the Silverio Compound Itself >>
- When did the informal settlers first settle into the Silverio Compound?
- What was the Silverio Compound before the informal settlers came in?
- Who really owns the Silverio Compound: the Parañaque City government, a private company/corporation, or a person?
-> According to Mayor Bernabe, the compound belongs to the city government.
And finally, this: questions below are what I call “big picture” questions. This seeks to discuss the issue at hand in a deeper level. We refer not only to the demolition in Silverio Compound, but also to previous violent demolitions in urban areas. Answers to these questions aim to gather data and establish the facts, to help in coming up with more effective solutions.
“Big Picture” Questions
- From a legal standpoint, when is one called an “informal settler”?
- Where do informal settlers originally come from? What are the main reasons for leaving their place of origin? What are the main reasons for staying in informal settlements?
- Compared to 1986, has the number/percentage of informal settlers in Metro Manila and other urban areas increased or decreased?
- What have been the actions/solutions of the national and local governments in the past to deal with the problem of informal settlements? Were they effective?
- How did the government’s housing projects turn out, in terms of community growth, condition of houses, and economic standing of families?
- Does relocation of informal settlers to suburban areas help? Is the “return rate” from these relocation areas to the same or another informal settlement high? What compels them to return to informal settlements?
- How do local governments treat the informal settlers? How do they serve them?
- Do these informal settlers pay taxes? Do they pay utility bills?
- Legally speaking, are informal settlers considered residents of the city, and are therefore entitled to local government services? Do they have to register for their residence in the city? Are they legally allowed to vote and be voted?
- Are there laws or ordinances that set the basic rights, privileges and responsibilities of informal settlers?