Urban poor group asks Comelec to stop demolition during election period

March 22, 2010 11:45 pm 

MANILA, March 22 – A total of 804,562 urban poor voters will be disenfranchised if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will not ban demolition of informal settlers, housing rights organizations said Monday.

The group, headed by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), filed a petition before the Comelec to stop on-going massive demolition and distant relocation being conducted by the government.

“This May 2010 election is expected to create change in the Philippine Governance and it is people’s right to exercise their right to vote and to elect leaders. Hence not a single voter should be denied this right. Forced evictions and relocating informal settlers to distant places in time of election is unlawful as they will surely disenfranchise members of the urban poor. Hence, we urge Comelec, the most powerful government agency during elections to ban demolitions and distant relocation,” said UPA legal counsel Bienvenido Salinas, in a statement.

According to Estrella Terencio, UPSAI president, when the informal settlers in Metro Manila were relocated in 2006, only 400 out of the 4,000 voters were able to vote in the 2007 polls.

“When we were forcibly relocated to Cabuyao, Laguna more or less we had 4,000 voters prepared for the 2007 election. But only 400 were able to vote because most of us were not yet settled in the relocation site and did not have the required six-month residency,” said the former railway dweller in Makati, who was among those relocated in 2006 to give way to the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.

During their march, the group brought a 1-meter high improvised Precinct Count Optical Scanner machine that emits a big ballot saying, “No to Demolition.” They even changed the meaning of PCOS to “People’s Concern Over Suffrage.”

UPA records show that from January to March 2010, a total of 3,043 families have been evicted compared to only one demolition for the same period last year. (PNA) RMA/FGP/utb

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