1 hurt as cops, illegal settlers clash in Valenzuela City
MANILA, Philippines — One person was hurt after violence erupted as authorities prepared to demolish around 50 houses in Valenzuela City on Thursday.
Ahna Mejia, the city’s public information officer, said Frank Bravo, a member of the engineering crew, had to be treated for wounds sustained in the chest, and in the foot after several illegal settlers, accompanied by members of militant groups, hurled rocks and feces at the demolition team that was about to bring down around 50 houses installed under transmission lines.
The team was backed up by around 300 policemen, Mejia said.
According to Mejia, one of Bravo’s toenails was removed as a result of the violence that took place on Hulo Street, in Friendsville Subdivision in Barangay (village) Bignay, past 8 a.m.
“As we were approaching the demolition area, someone started throwing rocks, so the others (from the opposing group) followed,” Mejia said, adding the authorities had exhibited “maximum tolerance” all throughout.
Val Dimayuga, media officer of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, which is among the organizations that claims to represent the 139 illegal family-settlers in the area, said it was possible that some of them hurled rocks and feces at the authorities, but said this was prompted by the police’s “forcible entry” into the area.
So far, he said there were no reports of anyone from Kadamay or the residents getting hurt.
The police arrested Ricardo Gagap who, according to authorities, was not a resident but a member of the militant group Anakbayan.
Criminal charges were set to be filed against Gagap, Mejia said.
But Vangie, Gagap’s wife, said that her husband, a resident in the area, had nothing to do with instigating the violence.
She said he was the one who wanted to negotiate properly with the demolition team.
“I was surprised when he was suddenly arrested,” Vangie said, adding she did not know who instigated the violence as she was far from where it erupted.
She refused to say whether her husband was a member of Anakbayan, and insisted her husband was an “ordinary” resident.
After several minutes, some of the 139 illegal settler-families in the area agreed to receive the P5,000 financial assistance given by the city government, which stood firm in pushing through with the demolition.
The money was apart from the P18,000 being offered to each family by the national government for leaving waterways, Mejia said.
According to Mejia, while 50 of the 139 families would be resettled in government relocation sites in Montalban, Rizal, and in Marilao and San Jose in Bulacan, the remaining residents could use the money to stay with their relatives or in their provinces until the completion of other relocation sites.
She said the demolition team would have all the houses demolished in the “hazardous area” within the day.
She said years ago, 209 families were living in the area, but some of these claimed the P5,000 in financial assistance provided by the city government and relocated somewhere else.
The number of illegal settler-families subsequently went down to 20, and they were issued a notice to vacate the area on May 3, Mejia said.
“But now we have 139 families again,” Mejia said, noting many of them came from nearby places such as Bulacan.
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