41 Kadamay members charged

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - April 5, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Quezon City prosecutor’s office yesterday recommended the filing of trespassing and grave coercion charges against 41 informal settlers, all members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), for attempting to reoccupy a contested property in Quezon City from which they were evicted last year.

The Kadamay members’ attempt follows the urban poor group’s successful occupation of state housing units in Pandi, Bulacan. Yesterday, President Duterte told police officers and soldiers that he will give them bigger homes in exchange for the Bulacan houses.

Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Ramoncito Ocampo Jr. found probable cause on the information and evidence submitted by the police.

One of the cases filed by the police is trespass to dwelling but Ocampo changed it to other forms of trespass as the property was uninhabited at the time of the time it was occupied by the slum dwellers.

Police also filed a case of malicious mischief after the slum dwellers reportedly destroyed the iron sheet fence of the 1,668-square meter lot along Apollo street in Barangay Tandang Sora when they forced their way into the property last Sunday and told the lone security guard of the property to leave.

Ocampo subjected the other charge for further investigation. “There is no evidence who among the 41 respondents were responsible for the damage,” he said in an interview with reporters.

The inquest proceedings took place yesterday morning at Camp Karingal, the headquarters of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD). The respondents were assisted by Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Cortez said their next step is to prepare bail for his clients, who also want to file charges of grave coercion, illegal arrest and arbitrary detention against the police and the alleged owners of the property, Reynaldo Guiyab and Jose Gil Gonzales.

He said his clients had no choice but to occupy the property after they were ordered by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to vacate the sidewalk where they stayed after their eviction in June last year.

“They have a claim on that property. They used to stay there until they were evicted,” said Cortez, adding that some of the informal settlers have been occupying the property for more than 30 years.

Aside from the 41 adults who were arrested, 17 minors ranging from two to 15 years old were also taken into custody. Relatives said the minors were traumatized after they were herded by heavily armed law enforcers.

Relatives of those arrested have temporarily taken custody of the minors while they are still in detention.

QCPD director Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar defended his officers.

“We cannot tolerate people just occupying private properties. Delaying it could lead to more supporters, hence possible aggression and violence during dispersal or eviction,” he said.

Among the informal settlers is Alberto Namias, 47, a tricycle driver who has been a resident of the property for 18 years.

In a brief interview, he slammed the police for treating them as criminals. “The children were crying. They are saying we are violent. How can we retaliate when they have guns?”

He is hoping to be released soon so he could resume his job and provide food for his family. However, his main problem is where they will live after he is released from detention.

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

For Tirso Mangubat, 65, he vowed to return to the disputed property where he and his family have been residents for 34 years.

“What they did to us was harassment,” he said. – With Rhodina Villanueva, Mayen Jaymalin

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