Urban poor group casts fear over precedent set by Metro Manila cops after eviction attempt

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Urban poor group casts fear over precedent set by Metro Manila cops after eviction attempt
Screengrab shows CCTV footage of a Taguig family being confronted by a team of policemen attempting to evict them.
Screengrab / Arles Delos Santos on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — A non-government organization cried foul over the forced eviction attempt of a family in Taguig at the hands of Metro Manila police, casting fear that it could set a precedent for future evictions facilitated by the national police. 

In a statement sent to Philstar.com, nonprofit Urban Poor Associates slammed what it called the "violent and inhumane eviction attempt on the Delos Santos family."

Arles Delos Santos, the son of retired Police Executive Master Sergeant Arnel Delos Santos, wrote in a series of Facebook posts that his family was visited by a team of cops who attempted to evict him and his family from their property, which served as their father's barracks when he was still in the service. 

The police elements, all of whom were with the National Capital Region Police Office, did not bring with them any documents backing up their claim. 

“When the incident happened, our parents were in the province due to travel restrictions. The police came in and destroyed our gate. We presented them with our legal papers such as land titles and occupancy certificate in our attempt for a peaceful negotiation, but when I was about to get back the documents, a policeman named Rodriguez threatened to punch me," he said. 

"My phone was also seized by police personnel when I tried to record on video the harassment. The police treated us as if we are criminals, we haven’t done anything wrong, all we want is to be safe from any form of harassment and intimidation by the police," he added. 

CCTV footage of the incident shows cops destroying a barricade in the family's yard, and later, the family being surrounded and screamed at by no less than Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas himself, director of Metro Manila police.  

Other officers present were also recorded goading Delos Santos and a relative of his on when they tried to get their papers back from officers who refused to give them back. 

In the nonprofit's statement, Alicia Murphy, Urban Poor Associates executive director said: “Being a police officer is not to be taken as an unquestionable authority to barge in and harm anyone. The Police are supposed to protect the people and be subservient to the legal processes. Simply stated they should not take the law into their hands just because they are police officers.”

"We do not want this action of the PNP to become a precedent in all evictions that will take place. PNP is part of the eviction process to observe that no human rights are violated, not the other way around," she said. 

Philstar.com reached out to Delos Santos to confirm the events independently though he has not responded as of this writing. The family is reportedly set to file raps against the officers who were present that day, according to an Inquirer report. 

PNP chief: Video 'speaks a thousand words'

Speaking at his Monday press briefing, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, chief of the national police, promised that the agency would look into the incident, though he was careful to point out that the family's patriarch had already retired, even implying that they ignored the notices to vacate sent to them. 

"Generally, there were a lot of them because they were going around and inspecting quarantine areas...If we look nationwide, there are so many lands owned by the Philippine National Police where there are squatters [and] we know that a video would speak a thousand words that's why we will investigate on what happened during the confrontation," Gamboa said. 

"This is a lot owned by the Philippine National Police. I'm sure there have already been many notices for them to vacate because their dad has already retired...As to the details why (regional director) Sinas has a lot of police officers with him, and also the cellphone-taking of the man, we will investigate it," he added. 

Urban Poor Associates in a separate statement slammed government agencies behind attempted evictions over the community quarantine, pointing out that poor families would have nowhere to go in the event of eviction. 

"I would like to emphasize that NCRPO did not in any way cause the destruction of the gate of said family. The location recorded in the video circulating on social media is the barricaded parking area of the motor pool near the Motor Pool Building and the old RDSU Building which the NCRPO is currently rehabilitating to be utilized as a quarantine facility," Sinas said in a statement issued later on. 

In a separate statement, Delos Santos wrote in response: "It's not the PNP who put that barricade. It's our family's decision to put that there because PNP personnel continuously trespass, harass, and invade our area. It is clear in the video that they destroyed, illegally, the gate of our home."

“We live in times of uncertainty because of the pandemic. The government must not exploit the poor people’s vulnerability to eviction and violence. We call on the government to stop all forms of eviction and stop burdening poor people who continually suffer from loss of jobs and health insecurity," Murphy said. 



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