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DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Authorities demolished houses of informal settlers in the heart of Mati City on Monday, July 17, causing heavy traffic in the main thoroughfares of the capital city of Davao Oriental province.
The demolition of houses, which were occupied by at least 50 families near the Pujada Bay, was ordered by Municipal Trial Court Judge Allan Temones after the informal settlers lost their legal battle to the family of Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat.
The demolition of the houses, mostly built using light materials, took place across Mati’s baywalk park, a major tourism landmark of the city which was named after the Rabat patriarch.
Mati police chief Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Gregore said the demolition of houses was conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner.
“There was no violent reaction from the affected residents. It was peaceful,” Gregore said.
Remedios Floresimo, who owned one of the houses destroyed by the demolition team, told Rappler in an interview that they did not receive assistance from the government.
“We have been living here for more than 20 years already. They don’t have compassion for the poor. They destroyed our houses even though we are in the process of seeking a temporary restraining order from the court,” said Floresimo.
After their house was demolished, she and her family members salvaged their belongings and several religious icons like the statue of the Virgin Mary and Santo Nino.
“We have nowhere to go because we are landless and poor,” said an old woman, crying.
A 14-year-old boy named Jovern told Rappler, “I wonder where we will sleep tonight. We don’t have a home now, and my parents are jobless.”
Based on court records, the informal settlers had occupied 2,284 square meters belonging to the heirs of Luisito Rabat Sr., represented by Luis Philippe Rabat, the elder brother of the mayor.
The property is located in a bustling commercial district near the Mati City Cathedral, hotels, gasoline stations, the Mati port, and other business establishments, some of which are owned by the Rabats.
The Rabats are among the old and rich haciendero families in Davao Oriental. They own vast tracts of land in Mati.
Their patriarch, Francisco, was a long-time governor of Davao Oriental and former mayor of Mati. His daughter, Michelle, is the incumbent mayor, while the mayor’s cousin, Lorenzo, is also the city’s vice mayor. – Rappler.com