SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
Reference: Rupert Estanislao, Chair.
In a direct consequence to President Noynoy Aquino’s “Public-Private Partnership” policies and his aggressive anti-poor demolition program, police on October 2nd shot and killed a young teenager (reported to be 14 or 15-years-old) who was simply trying to defend a community from illegal demolition.
John Cali Lagrimas was a member of the youth group, Samahan ng Kabataang Demokratiko sa Hacienda Luisita (Sakdal), and hailed from Barangay San Francisco, Tarlac. He was shot dead by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) while defending the community of Barangay San Roque, Tarlac City.
“How can the police even justify this?” exclaimed Rupert Estanislao, chairperson of San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP), “a young boy who was selflessly helping out a community in trouble was brazenly gunned down by PNP thugs in order to clear the way for corporate development and to fatten the purses of local landlords who see children as roadblocks; who ‘get in the way’ of their profits.”
Block 7 of San Roque has been home to 68 families for the past 51 years with the families paying rent to a local landlord. However another land owner, Dennis Junio, claimed the land and was working with local Tarlac City politicians to clear out all 68 families in order to make a profit off the land.
While Junio has no title to the land, a hearing was set for October 12th. However the PNP, along with a demolition team and a SWAT team, moved in around 8 AM on Oct. 2nd to start the demolition of the community without a court order or any other legal documents to support their move.
“This is what the Aquino government’s policy and program on housing amounts to,” said Anakpawis Partylist Central Luzon regional coordinator Joseph Canlas, “the illegal and violent demolition of urban and rural poor communities. The government has no genuine mass housing and livelihood program for the urban poor, but it promotes the privatization and commercialization of land areas including those owned by the government.”
“What happened in Barangay San Roque was an attempted massacre. The PNP-Tarlac clearly violated laws governing the demolition of urban poor communities, including the PNP’s own rules of engagement. We hold the PNP and the Aquino government responsible for this violence and Cali’s death.”
Before he was gunned down in cold blood, Lagrimas had become very active in his own peasant community in Barangay San Francisco by being involved with local grass-roots organizations fighting the enclosure of their own land by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, as well as trying to better himself while organizing with Sakdal. Many of his peers said they could see improvements in his willingness to help out others, organize within the community, and continue in his education despite having to drop out of high school because his mother, a farm worker on President Aquino’s hacienda, could no longer afford his schooling costs.
“This is a brutal reality for the vast majority of Filipinos underneath the current Aquino administration,” said Estanislao, “they are dehumanized, they are attacked from all sides, from land developers, police thugs, landlords, and the current President’s anti-poor and anti-people policies. The Aquino government is directly responsible for Lagrimas’ death due to the fact that through his Public-Private Partnership programs, Aquino has been targeting, hounding, and destroying urban poor communities all over the country for the name of ‘profit’ and ‘development.’”
“Aquino’s policies are a smokescreen for the violent dispersal of what he considers blight,” continued Estanislao. “Instead of offering an alternative for decent jobs, homes, and livelihood, the lives of the urban poor are demolished, their rights ignored and they are vilified as being stubborn and lazy. They are merely told to ‘pack up and ship out,’ and when they rightly and justly resist the destruction of their homes and livelihood, they are gunned down in the street by government sponsored goons.”
Despite his poverty stricken upbringing and lack of what the government calls “formal” education, Lagrimas was able to make the connections between the systemic poverty and injustice in his peasant hometown with the systemic poverty and injustice in neighboring urban community of San Roque. It was because he made these connections, which caused him to act, that he was shot dead by the guns of the PNP.
“SF CHRP is holding the PNP, local Tarlac City government, and Aquino directly responsible for the attempted illegal demolition of the homes of 68 families and for the death of Lagrimas,” Estanislao said. “The Aquino government must cease and desist with all planned demolitions unless it wants to see another incident like this again. SF CHRP deplores the continual human rights violations against urban poor families and calls on the Aquino administration to end its Public-Private Partnership programs and to concretely address the real needs of urban poor families when it comes to adequate housing, sustainable jobs, and the right to a proper life.”
“We also call for the investigation of local PNP Col. Arnel Ramos and the local PNP unit,” continued Estanislao, “and for murder charges to be drawn up against Ramos and the PNP SWAT team that perpetrated this grave human rights violation by firing into an unarmed crowd and for the killing of Lagrimas.”
Ten-year-old Jojie Martinez, who was friends with Lagrimas, said it best. “Cali was only a boy; I don’t understand why they had to shoot and kill him. He was only there to help the residents keep their houses.”