DAVAO CITY, Philippines – It took Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte's punch on a court sheriff's face, as well as the resistance of residents, to stop the demolition of an urban poor settlement here in 2011.
The demolition, however, eventually pushed through on Thursday, July 26, after a demolition team tore down 200 houses in Barangay Soliman, Agdao.
Sheriff Teresita Ceballos of the Davao Regional Trial Court said the demolition in Barangay Soliman implements the order released in March after the deferment of the demolition order last year.
Ceballos said unlike the controversial demolition attempt last year, this year's demolition involved no violent incidents.
In July last year, a demolition team, along with anti-riot police and a special weapons and action (SWAT) team, clashed with the residents who resisted the demolition order.
The scuffle and demolition attempt ended when Duterte arrived and repeatedly punched Sheriff Andres Abe in the face.
Duterte explained she punched Abe for failing to consider her request to delay the demolition and wait for her arrival in the community.
Last month, the mayor publicly apologized to Abe and his family. In a rare interview with Rappler in April, Duterte said the punching incident gave the wrong kind of fame. (Watch more in the video below.)
Ceballos said they have corrected the mistakes that sparked the clash during last year's demolition.
“We have ensured that all protocols are being followed. And along with the other concerned government agencies, we have talked with the leaders of the informal settlers,” Ceballos said.
Residents, on the other hand, said they wanted to fight for their homes but have already yielded to the effects of the alleged “psy-war” against them.
Marlene Compasivo, who has lived in the community since 1983, said armed men riding in motorcycles were seen days before the demolition.
She added that on the night of the demolition, personnel from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group allegedly raided houses and frisked the males.
“They were asking who are armed in this community. I think they were afraid that the residents would use guns to fight off the demolition. How can we buy guns if we do not even have money to buy rice?” said Compasivo.
She also lamented the lack of support for their relocation, which she said would only worsen the problems of the residents.
The local government has provided a relocation site in Los Amigos, Tugbok District with P5,000 in financial assistance.
“But this site is still a grassland. The P5,000 is not even enough to cover the construction of a shanty. And the site has still no direct water and electricity lines,” Compasivo said.
Once settled in the relocation site, they would need at least P38 for an almost two hours of a jeepney ride from the relocation to downtown Davao, she explained.
“With the travel expenses alone, there would be nothing left from our monthly income,” Compasivo said.
The lot in Barangay Soliman — claimed by Davao Enterprise Corporation reportedly owned by a Chinese businessman — would be converted into a commercial area. – Rappler.com