Scores of Badjao families face demolition
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – For the second time in just seven months, dozens of Badjao families were forcibly uprooted from their new-found home in Cawacawa village here without clear reason.
Leonida Bayan, assistant social welfare officer, only said the city government was “determined to clear the islands and the shorelines of Cawacawa before Monday.”
Bayan said the subject of the demolition on Saturday was structures put up by Badjao families, which were originally from Rio Hondo and Mariki.
“Those without tags and cards will be forced to demolish,” she said, referring to those who were put into the village following the over a month-long violence between government security forces and Nur Misuari’s men in September.
On Saturday, Badjaos (sea gypsies) started removing the structures they had put up or folded up their tents amid the showers and the watchful eyes of soldiers and policemen.
Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of Task Force Zamboanga, said they had warned the Badjaos that those who will strongly resist “will be dealt with accordingly.”
Elmer Apolinario, assistance city administrator, said the city government did not want confrontation either, which was why the Badjaos were ordered to peacefully tear down their houses, pack up and leave.
But Badjao leaders said they obliged, even if it was painful for them to leave the area – which they have considered their second home already.
They pointed to the presence of specialized security forces, such as the Marines and the police’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team – who were trained to fight terrorism, for acceding to the order.
Badjao leaders Asikal Maasiral and Panglima Tadjirun Sabturani said they did not want their people hurt, which was why they agreed to board the trucks.
But they said they were still puzzled why the demolition was carried out when city hall officials had earlier assured them that there would be no forced relocation as what happened in September.
The Badjao leaders recounted that when Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen went on rampage in the city during that time, Mariki and Rio Hondo were not in the line of fire.
But even then, they were forcibly relocated to Cawacawa.
Maasiral said they had demanded a clear explanation from Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar on why they had to be uprooted but none had been provided.
Satulnina Aril, a Badjao mother, was among the opposing voices to the relocation.
She said what she had wanted was to return to her old place.
As of Saturday, 30 families heeded the forced relocation order, according to Jarnari Hadjirul, a 65-year old Badjao team leader.
Bayan said the remaining Badjao families, numbering over a hundred, have until Monday to leave Cawacawa.
She justified the second forced relocation by saying Mampang and Arena Blanco were far conducive because of their amenities.
“They have water and electricity in the schools there and food will be provided until the bunkhouses were erected in Mampang and Arena Blanco,” she said.
Maasiral said they did not want to live in Mampang and Arena Blanco because these were far from their source of living – the sea.
The Badjaos are fishermen, he said. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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