Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo on Sunday clarified his remarks about calling for a halt to demolitions in Metro Manila, saying what he meant was the suspension of police assistance for the court-ordered dismantling of illegal structures.
“Let me just clarify it. As far as we are concerned, we don’t have any authority to suspend demolition[s]. What we really ordered was for the police [to stop giving in] to requests for assistance to undertake demolitions,” he said in an interview on ANC.
Robredo explained that the police would be called in only if certain conditions were met, such as, first, compliance with the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) and second, the conduct of a
“predemolition meeting” attended by representatives from the Commission on Human Rights, the police, the interior department and media.
According to him, this was to ensure “that there will be no miscommunication whatsoever between all the contending parties and it will be very clear exactly what will be done.”
“So effectively, we are saying we cannot assure anyone that there will be no demolition orders but from hereon, if there is any party, like the sheriff who will request for police assistance, there is a protocol that has to be complied with,” Robredo said.
On Friday, the interior secretary directed the National Capital Region Police Office to conduct a review of all policies and legal orders regarding cases of demolition a few days after a violent riot erupted as illegal market stalls at Silverio Compound in Parañaque City were being torn down.
“Pending the review, all demolitions are ordered stopped… while we’re not yet clear about all related policies and guidelines on this subject,” Robredo was quoted as saying in a statement.
Last Monday, residents of Silverio compound and other militants clashed with riot policemen during a court-ordered demolition of stalls, leaving a resident dead due to a gunshot wound in the head and at least 39 others injured.
The police, however, denied that they used excessive force as they argued that it was the residents who started the violence and that some of them carried firearms as well.
The Parañaque police admitted using live ammunition against the protesters but officials later noted that the fatality could not have died from bullets from the M-16 rifles the lawmen had fired after an autopsy report from the National Bureau of Investigation showed that the wound likely came from a 9mm or .38-cal. gun.
Asked if violent demolition could be eased with a comprehensive relocation plan, Robredo said that was in fact the intention of President Aquino.
“He authorized P10 billion last year and in fact, [several groundbreaking ceremonies for projects have been held]. It’s really faithful compliance with the UDHA. The UDHA first of all said that if onsite [relocation] is possible, you go onsite. If onsite is not possible, we go in-cities. If in-cities is not possible, we do near-cities,” he said.
“The last option is resettlement. For a long time, the resettlement option was always the first option and unfortunately, most of those who settled outside of Metro Manila just came back. So this time, the program really looks at the intent of the UDHA and as far as possible, if we can do onsite and near-cities, we will do onsite and near-cities,” Robredo said.