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LOOK: Families in Mandaue City protest planned demolition of homes

Manolo Lumbab, father of 6, is among the many residents of Sitio Back-Matimco, Mandaue City who are on the verge of losing their homes, which were nearly demolished by the local government on Wednesday, November 11.

On October 28, the sitio’s residents received a notice signed by Mandaue City Legal Officer Nenita Layese declaring that their makeshift homes were in violation of the implemented rules and regulations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 220, an act that defines the regulations and standards in the construction of economic and socialized housing projects. 

The residents were made to choose between voluntarily vacating their homes or having them demolished at their own cost.

AYUDA. Posters could be seen at the entry point of the sitio, reading, “Ayuda ug Mass Testing, dili Demolisyon! Oust Duterte!” (Aid and Mass Testing, Not Demolition! Oust Duterte!) Photo by John Sitchon/Rappler

This news came at a difficult time for Lumbab, who is already 59 years of age. Had it not been for his children, he would not have joined his neighbors in protesting the demolition.

"Ako maningkamot ko para sa akong pamilya. Usahay wa koy trabaho, mamasura ko arong makakaon akong mga anak. Mamutol og kahoy, mangayo trabaho sa akong mga amo aron makakaon sila," he said.

(I work hard for my family. Sometimes, when I don’t have a job, I collect garbage so I can afford to feed my children. I cut trees, ask for jobs from my bosses, so that my children have something to eat.)

For 24 years, Lumbab and his family had been legally allowed to stay in their makeshift residence. Their lot had been donated to them in 1996 by then-city mayor Alfredo “Pedong” Ouano.

However, years later, he and fellow residents had to form a human barricade as at least 15 members of Mandaue City's SWAT team arrived with the Housing and Urban Development Office (HUDO) demolition team.

PROTEST. Residents scream and rally for their homes against HUDO and police forces. Photo by John Sitchon

CLASH. Residents clashed with police personnel and even attempted to stop the landfilling by threatening to have themselves buried in the soil. Photo by John Sitchon/Rappler

POSTER. Manolo, his wife, and the big poster made from a rice sack stating “Ihunong ang pagpanghulga sa demolisyon” (Stop the threat of demolition). Photo by John Sitchon/Rappler

At around 11 am, tensions escalated between residents and police when HUDO's dump truck began dumping soil onto the road leading to Sitio Back-Matimco. Residents began screaming and swearing, afraid of losing their homes in the middle of the pandemic.

According to local alternative media Aninaw Productions, there was no public consultation nor official order for Wednesday's demolition.

"Ikamatyan na nako sir, gidonate na sa amoa. Makigbisog ko para ana!" Lumbab told Rappler tearfully.

("I will die for this sir. [That house] was donated to us. I'll fight for it.")

After the clashes, the demolition has since been put on hold. Only the dumping of soil was completed.

Legal battle

Under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2020-068 dated April 2, 2020, all administrative demolitions and eviction activities during the quarantine are prohibited. As of the moment, Mandaue City is under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

National Anti-Poverty Commission Represenative Evangeline Abejo said that the notices HUDO sent to residents were only for the "removal of houses" for the city's right of way.

Abejo had assisted the sitio with prior issues in their community, and accompanied some residents Wednesday morning to confront government officials about the demolition.

Wala mi gientertain sa HUDO ganina kay busy sila. Gipasa-pasa mi gikan sa Mayor’s office hangtud sa HUDO. Gihatag mi sa ila project coordinator didto,” she said. 

(We weren’t entertained at HUDO a while ago because they were busy. We were passed on from the Mayor’s office to HUDO's project coordinator.)

WAITING. National Anti-Poverty Commission Rep. Evangeline Abejo was joined by residents who wished to have a dialogue with a government official at the Mandaue City Housing and Urban Development Office. Photo by John Sitchon/Rappler

“Our next action is to ask for an approved Subdivision Development Plan,” Abejo said.

HUDO has yet to provide any explanation for the presence of SWAT teams and multiple police personnel. Rappler tried contacting HUDO with regard to this but has yet to receive a response.

Should the residents lose the legal battle, Lumbab said that they do not have any sort of back-up plan and would end up homeless.

Mintras buhi pako, naa gihapon na ang balay. Ug mawala, naa pa para sa akong mga anak," he insisted.

(While I’m still alive, the house stays. If I’m gone, it should still be there for my children.) – Rappler.com