Philippines: Demolition of Urban Poor Village Sparks Indignation

At least one person was killed and scores were injured after police forces fired on protesting residents of Silverio Compound in Paranaque City defending their homes from being demolished.

(A young resident who was gunned down during the demolition. Photo from Tudla)

The Silverio Compound is home to at least 28,000 urban poor families. The residents contend that a total of 4 individuals were killed. The violent demolition has sparked a wave of indignation online.

Billionaire Henry Sy's SM Development Corporation (SMDC) owns the 9.7 hectare lot which it plans to clear for the construction of condominiums and commercial establishments.

This is not the first time that Henry Sy's SM shopping mall entered into controversy. Protests against SMDC also erupted against the planned removal of pine trees for one of its mall expansion program.

(Residents prepare to defend their homes in Silverio Compund. Photo from Tudla)

The police confirmed the killing of Arnel Leonor, 21 years old. Residents said that Bodging Isaias, 16 years old, Rodman Ortega, 16 years old and Raymond Aquino, 36 years old were also killed by police gunfire.

Youth activist leader and blogger Vencer Crisostomo shares a comprehensive narrative account of the bloody incident:

News video footages and documentation by citizen media groups showed members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) armed with M16 rifles firing indiscriminately as they dipersed residents who formed a human barricade to try to stop police and demolition teams. Also shown were scores being arrested, bloodied and beaten up even as they were already in the custody of the police.

After several rounds of volley gunfire, Arnel Leonor Tolentino, 21 was confirmed dead by gunshot on the head and several others also shot in vital areas are in critical condition. Not a few residents have gunshot wounds in their arms and legs, some as young as 15-16 years old.

SMDC has repeatedly denied any connection with the brutal demolition. But government documents obtained by residents indicate the company as a “housing development partner.”

Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe have confirmed plans to use the lot for commercial purposes for the city government. There is also a plan to build a medium-rise housing project but this will only occupy a small portion of the property as shown by the project's master plan.

The violent demolition reminded Like a Rolling Stone of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre where striking farm workers were shot by military and police forces.

I feared that a whitewash would take place given the statements of the Mayor. In the Luisita massacre, the authorities claimed that farmers were armed, that violence started from the ranks of the farmers and that the farmers were infiltrated by “outsiders” who were agitating them.

The same storyline is now being repeated by the authorities even before an investigation into the incident has taken place. Authorities are saying that residents were armed too, that they started the violence and that they were infiltrated by “outsiders”. The idea here is simple. Blame the victims and problem goes away.

Citizen media writer Kenneth Roland Guda believes that the Noynoy Aquino government should also be held accountable for the massacre in Silverio Compound.

Hindi lamang usapin ito ng command responsibility. May direktang pananagutan ang administrasyong Aquino sa paggamit ng dahas sa mga sibilyang tumututol sa demolisyon. Kinalinga ng administrasyong ito ang patuloy na pagsasanay at pag-aarmas sa malulupit at brutal na mga yunit ng militar at pulisya na may masasamang rekord ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

This is not just a matter of command responsibility. The Aquino administration is directly accountable for the use of violence against civilians opposing the demolition. This administration nurtured the continued training and arming of vicious and brutal military and police units that have a bad record of human rights violations.

The official statement and appeal of the residents of silverio compound, Paranaque was also posted online.

The policemen are supposed to serve and protect the people but why send more than 300 policemen and demolition teams to destroy our ranks and the whole community and kill us?

We strongly oppose the massive demolition of our community. The demolition of our public market is only part of the continued plan to demolish the whole 9.7 hectares of Silverio Compound to give way to the business center of Henry Sy and to wipe out all small vendors in favour of the HYPERMARKET of the Sy family.

A Radical's Nut is encouraging support for what he calls a “fight for the right to live.”

While the residents of Silverio Compound remain undaunted by oppression and brutality, they need all the support that they can muster to ensure that justice will be served. At the same time, they also need assistance – medical, legal, etc. – to help them cope with the tragedy inflicted on them by institutions that are supposed to uphold their rights and promote their interests.

Some reactions on Twitter:

@ellacolmenares: SM: Silverio Massacre

@Ralpipay: @piabisikleta Re-watched the footage of Silverio massacre and Red some articles eto ba ang tinatawag nating #PinoyPride #ItsMoreFuninPH

@Ralpipay: @piabisikleta Re-watched the footage of Silverio massacre and read some articles is this what we call #PinoyPride #ItsMoreFuninPH

@mobilemaui: Massacre: “To kill people in numbers, especially brutally and indiscriminately” Yun ang ginawa sa #Silverio compound. #justice

@YourConnoisseur: OMG! Silverio compound massacre! And it happened under the administration of #PNoy.

@jaellao: Today was a bloody hell day for residents of Silverio Compound. It's also the 29th month since the Ampatuan Massacre.

A video documentation of the resident's barricades and the bloody dispersal:

Photos and video via Tudla Productions. Some rights reserved.

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