MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – A demolition operation in San Juan City meant to clear the site for the local government’s municipal building turned violent on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, leaving at least 26 people injured.
Residents were forecibly removed at Corazon de Jesus in San Juan, sparking violence, which started at past 9 a.m. The displaced residents threw stones, improvised explosives and other objects at the demolition team.
The violence subsided by 3 p.m., prompting the demolition team to resume dismantling shanties. Sixteen people were arrested.
San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, in an interview with ANC, accused “professional” activists for the violence, saying they initiated the protests.
Ejercito also said his mother, San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, gave the go-signal for the demolition, adding she ordered “maximum tolerance” among the police.
Activist groups denounced the demolition. In a statement, Bayan, an umbrella organization of leftist groups, said the confrontation could have been avoided “had the city government listened to the proposals” of the residents for various modes of relocation.
Bayan said some of the relocation schemes were “in-city,” where the displaced people would either transfer to a different lot or move to accommodate the project.
It added the demolition highlights the “severe housing problem” under the current government.
For shrine, new city hall
The San Juan government contends the disputed 1.6-hectare property is part of the Pinaglabanan Shrine area, and will be used for the rehabilitation of the said monument, as well as for the expansion of the city hall and a new government center.
The demolition will affect around 2,000 people. The city government plans to relocate them to a resettlement area in Montalban, Rizal, but residents are refusing to go there.
Back in January 25, 2011, the San Juan government also attempted to evict the residents from the area, but were unsuccessful, and the demolition also turned violent.
Former president Joseph Estrada, a resident of the city, intervened during the 2011 incident, where he talked the residents, calling for calm. – Rappler.com