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MANILA, Philippines – “Hirap na hirap ako. Ano na ba tong nangyayari na ‘to. Mahirap ka na. Pinahirapan ka pa.”
(I'm having a lot of difficulty. What's happening? You're already poor and they've made it more difficult.)
This is how Susan Rufa described the process of arranging bail for her 83-year-old mother Epifana Rufa, the oldest detained Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) member in Camp Karingal at the Quezon City Police Headquarters.
On Monday, April 3, police arrested some 80 members of Kadamay after they occupied a vacant housing area in Barangay Apollo, Tandang Sora, that was demolished last year before President Rodrigo Duterte took his oath.
According to Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano, the area was occupied because no development had been done in the area since their shanties were demolished 9 months ago. (WATCH: Kadamay's #OccupyPabahay: Anarchy or just cause?)
Of the 57 who are in Camp Karingal, 41 are now facing trespassing and coercion charges.
On Friday, April 7, Epifana sat at the outer corner of the area where they are detained. With only the wire fence separating mother and daughter, Epifana positioned herself at the corner to talk to Susan who came to facilitate her release.
The other detained members were either lying on the thin mats provided for them or standing near the wire fence, waiting for their visitors.
Susan, however, insisted that her mother was mistakenly taken by the police. According to her, Epifana was already sitting by the curb outside the housing property when the police came.
“Ngayon, pagkalabas ng lahat ng tao, labas na silang lahat. Pati mga pulis. Tapos ‘yung nanay ko, nakaupo. Binitbit na rin siya. Ang sabi daw, pagkarinig ng nanay ko, “Walang iiwan lahat. Walang maiiwan ni isa – bata, matanda – lahat dadalhin. Kaya wala na siyang magawa,” Susan Rufa added. This was when police also grabbed her mother who was already outside the housing property.
(Now when all people came out, everyone did, including the police. My mother was sitting at the curb when police left the property. Police also brought her. According to my mother, she heard them say: 'Do not leave anyone – young or old. We will bring everyone.' That's why she was unable to do anything.)
Epifana also told her daughter that around 100 policemen stormed the area without warning.
Upon learning about what happened, Susan Rufa immediately headed to Quezon City from Bulacan to get her mother.
She painfully learned, however, that the process for her mother's release was not easy. For one, she would have to shell out a minimum amount of P3,000 to post bail for her mother. Initially, she was told that the cost of bail could go as high up as P12,000.
“‘Di bale sana kung mayaman kami. Malaki ang kaso. Mayaman siya. Labas lang ng pera. 24 hours, labas na di ba. Pag mahirap ka, dinikdik ka pa lalo maging mahirap. Lakad dito, lakad doon. Paiikut-ikotin ka na parang trumpo,” Susan Rufa commented.
(There would have been no problem if we were rich. Even if the case is big, if you're rich, all you need is money. Within 24 hours, you can be a free man. If you are poor, they will make things harder for you. You will be asked to walk here and there. They will let you do the rounds just like a loose top.)
Echoing Susan Rufa's concern, Carlito Badion, Secretary General of Kadamay claimed, “The QC government is hell-bent on keeping our members in jail. These are ordinary poor folk who have been homeless for nearly a year. They are charged with crimes by a complainant whose claim to the land has been contested several times."
According to reports, Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar, QCPD director, said there is a housing program for people like Epifana and her neighbors.
"There is a process for availing; we are not siding with anyone here, whether rich or poor. But the rule of law cannot be compromised. One can't always just take what one wants," Eleazar said in an Interkasyon report. (READ: Why a P600-a-month housing is still a burden for the poor)
Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler
Susan Rufa long wanted to bring her mother to Bulacan where her family lives. However, she said that Epifana insisted on staying in Barangay Apollo because it is the home she has known for the past 28 years.
Earlier, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo called on authorities to release the 8 elderly members of Kadamay who were arrested for re-occupying a site in Quezon City from which they were earlier evicted.
The following are the other seniors currently in detention in Camp Karingal:
In an interview with Rappler, Badion insisted that Kadamay's #OccupyPabahay movement is not tantamount to anarchy.
"Hindi totoo na kami ay anarkiya. Mula nang nagpalit ng pamunuan ng administrasyon, kami ay nakipag-usap. Ako mismo, sa June 30, sasama kami sa solidarity dinner sa Tondo, Manila. Inabot namin ang kahilingan ng maralita sa bagong administrasyon," Badion recounted.
(It is not true that we are anarchist. Since the change in leadership in the adminstration, we initiated dialogue with the government. On June 30, I personally joined the solidarty dinner in Tondo, Manila. We relayed the sentiments of the poor to the new administration.)
He added that this was followed by a series of talks with different government agencies concerning housing projects for the poor. (READ: Occupy Bulacan: How the urban homeless won shelter)
About 9 months have passed since their shanties were demolished in Tandang Sora, and Epifana and her neighbors are still worrying about how to get back on their feet. – Rappler.com
Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.