MANILA,Philippines – Is SM in trouble again?
After getting in hot water for supposedly cutting trees for a mall expansion in Baguio City, the group is now being linked to a violent demolition in Parañaque that left 1 dead and several others injured on Monday, April 23.
Sheila Bernal, president of a homeowners association in Silverio Compound, where the violence erupted, claimed that a mid-rise condominium will be erected in the contested area by SM Development Corp. (SMDC), the property development arm of SM Investment Corp.
But Henry Sy Jr., son and namesake of the SM group patriarch, denied this.
“I heard about it (demolition). SM has no connection to that property whatsoever,” Sy Jr., who is also SMDC vice chairman and CEO, told Rappler on the sidelines of the annual stockholders’ meeting of an SM affiliate, Belle Corp.
In a separate statement, SMDC said it “is not in any way involved in the demolition” or in the “dispersal of the protesters.”
“In fact, SMDC was only made aware of what is happening in the Silverio Compound through the news that it received from media,” it noted.
Police said one person was killed when heavily-armed riot police clashed with hundreds of squatters or informal settlers in the area.
The fatality was only discovered after the rioters were dispersed. A village watchman was also reportedly shot and rushed to the hospital.
Human rights group Karapatan, however, reported that not one, but 4 were killed in the demolition, and 36 were hurt.
“Henry Sy and his cabal in his big corporate mafia are not only responsible for environmental degradation in Baguio, but also for the rights violations, which occurred today and the utter greed that comes with their forced eviction of residents who have legitimate claim to their homes,” said Karapatan-NCR chairperson Lourdes Villarias.
Bernal insisted that based on documents from the local housing board of Parañaque, the alleged SM project will be constructed starting June this year.
However, the Parañaque government has yet to confirm whether or not this is true.
Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe said that only the makeshift marketplace in the compound will be demolished to make way for a low-cost housing.
Meanwhile, Mark Lui, spokesperson of Kabataan Partylist, said that members of his group living in the 9.7-hectare compound were surprised that the demolition was suddenly enforced.
“The local government unit, through a writ of possession, promised the residents in January that the land will be awarded to them,” said Lui, who is also an organizer in the area.
The militant organizer said that affected residents were given a notice of eviction on April 10.
Bernal said that City Ordinance No. 03-07 (806), which was passed during the term of former Mayor Joey Marquez, stipulated that the area will be expropriated for the benefit of 25,000 families in the compound.
Karapatan called on the Supreme Court to immediately rule on the petition for a moratorium on demolitions filed by urban poor residents on March 23. – Rappler.com