The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights criticized the Aquino government for “grossly violating the poor’s right to life and right to adequate housing” as a result of violent demolition of homes of urban poor communities to favor “so-called development projects.”

In reaction to the death of Arnel Tolentino in a demolition last April 23 in Bgy. Silverio, Paranaque City, Arman Hernando, CTUHR documentation coordinator said, “demolition of urban poor communities purportedly to implement so-called development projects by the Aquino administration and local government units have resulted to gross violations of the poor’s right to life and adequate housing.”

“In our documentation and monitoring, Tolentino is already the fifth urban poor resident killed as a result of violent demolition or ongoing dispute over urban poor communities since Aquino took office in 2010. At the same time, more than 12, 000 of families have been affected and displaced to give way to ‘development’ projects which more often than not favor private interests.”

In 2011, four urban poor residents were killed in three separate incidents related to the demolition of urban poor communities. On July 23, Soliman Gomez and Rommel Fortade were killed in a violent demolition of homes in Pangarap Village in Caloocan City. Antonio Homo, a resident of Kadiwa Navotas City and Simeon Bayogbog of San Isidro Rodriguez, Rizal were also killed in March and October last year at the height of dispute over the planned demolitions of their respective communities.

The demolition in Bgy. Silverio resulting in the death of Tolentino, injury and arrest of many other residents was executed by the local government of Paranaque together with the Philippine National Police (PNP). According to reports, at around 8-9am on April 23, tension between the police and the residents who are barricading their homes to stop the demolition increased when the police reportedly started throwing teargas towards the human barricade of the residents. The residents retaliated by throwing stones at the policemen. A few moments later, gunshots were heard and Tolentino was later found drenched in blood and unconscious while some other residents found themselves also injured by gunshots. Thirty-three (33) residents were also arrested and later charged with various criminal charges.

“We mourn with the family of Arnel and we are one with them in their fight for justice. No development or government project can ever justify loss of lives and violation of rights. We call on President Aquino to conduct a speedy, thorough and impartial investigation of the incident. Police investigating their own ranks might result to whitewash and coverup. Police and government officials accountable for the violent turnout of the demolition should be penalized and brought to justice,” Hernando added.

“We also reiterate our call on the Aquino government to uphold the poor’s right to adequate housing and stop all demolitions of communities until a comprehensive housing policy that will truly bring development to the lives of the urban poor is put in place,” Hernando added.###