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Power vs. Poverty

September 10, 2010

(Note: Your Midfielder is posting this first person account of the honorable former Vice President Tito Guingona Jr. Sir Tito,who lives just a stone’s throw away, on 9th Street. has been the constant source of hope for the 180 families living between 6th and 7th Street in New Manila’s Barangay Marianas.

The poor folk have repeatedly been the target of demolition operations in the area whose ownership is claimed by rich, influential entities. This is their story.)



On August 11 a horrible specter of merciless destruction began anew against more than l80 helpless families – mostly women and children, living in humble shanties between sixth and seventh street in Broadway, Quezon City.  The demolition teams were led by sheriffs, scores of armed police officers and men, and private gangs bearing hammers and steel bar, and security guards carrying shotguns, armalites and sidearms.

The affected families pleaded – because the weather was bad, and the law mandates that demolitions should only proceed in clear weather. Furthermore, the order of demolition was expressly directed only against six named individuals and persons claiming rights under them – not against other persons with separate homes living there.

They intended to raise this vital issue, among others, in a hearing already scheduled for Friday, only two days hence.
But the sheriffs who led the demolition were adamant. The rains then were intermittent. They would come and go, and when a lull came during noon – they ordered the destruction to proceed. The settlers stood their ground but were no match for the rush of armed forces seeking to destroy. Lourdes Pantanosas strove to shield her family but was pistol-whipped on the head. More than a dozen others who tended to preserve simple belongings were mangled or trampled upon. They used Improvised explosive devices or Pillbox bombs, shotguns and armalites to cow the helpless victims further.

By nightfall, in the wake of ruins, many of the settlers were driven to the streets, stripped of roofs over their heads, shorn of tattered belongings left in the rubble – and then the evening rains came to drench their sufferings even more. Yet no matter how strong the rains and the roar of thunder, they could not stifle the wail of children crying in the night…nor the painful sobs of impoverished mothers weeping and praying in the dark.

The ugly demolition kept on for several days until all l80 families were driven to the streets. But the armed police and private security forces kept on and maintained vigil. Towards the second weekend. In the early morning of Friday August 27, a security guard using an armalite brazenly aimed and shot Dorina Dagohoy Bahin, who fell bleeding. Her friends and relatives quickly came to the rescue, rushing her to the St. Lukes Hospital. The security guard, Reymarc Arsenal from Antipolo was taken by the police under custody to Baras Police Station, for the power to demolish a home does not include authority to shoot or kill.

This tragedy did not begin on August 11 20l0 but way back in l950 almost 60 years ago. The property, comprising 3, l43 square meters, covered by TCT No 9460, was originally owned by a Japanese national, Arata Tsuitsui. Thru the intercession of then Mayor Manuel de la Fuente of Manila, with the consent of the Alien Property Authority which had jurisdiction over Alien Custodies, the Mayor of Quezon City then Mayor Ignacio Santos Diaz, relocated the parents and elders of the present defendants, headed by Pablo L. Mirando to the site in question.

The agreement was for them to purchase the property from the Board of Liquidators, and initial payments were made, followed by monthly rentals to be considered as part payments of the sale, evidenced by receipts of said payments. Therefore the present defendants who succeeded their parents and elders are not squatters but settlers: designated by government to stay in the site, to possess the premises in good faith, to eventually own the property upon full payment.

As a matter of fact, before construction of their homes the settlers secured building permits signed by then City Engineer Anastacio V. Agan. It seems ironic therefore that in 2008 an order for demolition was issued, not by a Court, but by the City Engineers’ Office to destroy houses which had permits to build, permits  given by the same office valid no mater how long ago.

From the early fifties to the present, a time span covering two generations, the original settlers and their successors endured varied challenges. They coped with the rigors of poverty. Jesse Seranilla as a young boy struggled as a pupil in nearby schools, studied assiduously and later got gainfully employment in a global firm, Philippine Airlines. Others like Jesse also spent their young years there and rose to manhood to reap success. Feliciano Angue was such a man, today he gallantly serves the nation as a Rear Admiral in the Navy. So did Alex Espinosa, now a Lt. Col in the nation’s AirForce. And Henry Espinosa, a Captain in the Philippine Marines.

But back to the property from whence they grew. In the early fifties, Carmen Planas owned the adjoining property comprising 4,304 square meters. She had other lands in the provinces and in 1953 she entered into a swap arrangement with the Board of Liquidators for ownership of the land occupied by the settlers. But she agreed to sell the adjoining property to the settlers, recognizing their rights of possession and eventual ownership of the area.

After the passing of Carmen Planas, the special administrator, Ilumindo B. Planas, sold the property to Wellington Ty Bros in November l964. Subsequently the Ty Bros. filed cases in court to eject the settlers but the son of Carmen Planas, intervened. Maximo I. Planas representing the other heirs, sided with the settlers, and asserted their right to stay in the land as eventual owners of the same. From then on court battles continued. Their rights were recognized by the court but the legal battles went on.

In l982, Wellington Ty Bros sold the property to Urban Planters Development Inc. Somehow the property was transferred anew, this time to Manila Banking Corporation, and lastly to China Bank.

Perhaps it is time we all help to resolve the plight of the settlers now. For the challenge they face is not only legal or political – it is also a social problem involving power versus poverty whose challenges similarly replicated across the land –  can virtually affect the strife for social justice in the Philippines.

It took the American negro centuries and countless battles to fight for justice and equality; it was only in the seventies of last year when the last stumbling block against real social integration was finally swept away – when the distorted banner of “Equal but Separate facilities for Black and White” in schools, in restuarants, in buses, in all public places was ultimately discarded. Today the United States has a black President.

Here in our own country, we have good laws and a workable constitution – but the wielders of power are often blinded to go against the poor, not because they are per se against the poor but because they perceive them as barriers to their desired goals. A man in high power who files mining claims is disturbed when he is confronted by tillers in the land inside his claims; he is disturbed when met by labor leaders making demands in his firm; he is disturbed when the acquatic rights to his fishing company are disputed by ordinary fishermen. Disturbance distorts his vision. Who are they to dare defy me! He begins to wield power – to win at any price, regardless of any cost.

The nation’s real need however is change, wholesome and meaningful change. For history tells us that power abused can crumble into dust. Power to build, yes. Not power to destroy.

Power to respect, not power to distort the laws and policies of the land. Otherwise we may no longer hear the cry of babies in the night nor the sobs of mothers weeping and praying in the dark…but we must listen to them because the majority of our brothers and sisters are poor – and we must help them to truly build the nation.

By: Tito Guingona

2 Comments leave one →
  1. pinaytunay permalink
    September 11, 2010 2:12 am

    Hi, Mr. Gagelonia

    I posted “Power vs. Poverty at the discussion group, “Worldwide Filipino Alliance” and Atty Marlowe Camello responded with an Open Letter to Hon. Tito Guingona. I already forwarded said Open Letter to Hon Guingona.

    Allow me to post here the Open Letter in its entirety.

    Sincerely,
    Maria Elizabeth Embry
    Antioch California

    Worldwide-Filipino-Alliance] AN OPEN LETTER TO THE HONORABLE TITO GUINGONA JR. – Please forward this message to him.Friday, September 10, 2010 6:57 AM
    From: “Marlowe” View contact detailsTo: “worldwide-filipino-alliance”

    The Most Honorable
    TITO GUINGONA JR.
    Former Vice President of the Philippines
    Manila

    Dear Honorable Guingona:

    Thank you very much for highlighting the plight of the poor in your article titled “Power vs Poverty”. I sincerely believe that you had in mind the cry of the poor in the face of tyranny of the rich and powerful over them which I think your heart bleeds thinking of their helplessness under our Philippine Justice System.

    It is for the same reason that prompted me since the time of the Presidency of Cory Aquino in calling the attention of Philippine Authorities, the CBCP, and many others on the need of establishing the Grand Jury and Trial Jury systems in the Philippines. It is by the creation of these devices that can level the playing field of justice between the rich and the poor.

    As you may be well aware, the poor comprises the greatest majority of Philippine democracy and therefore the sovereign majority rule is vested in them as the common people referred to in Article II, Section 1, of the constitution which says: “Sovereignty resides in the People and all government authority emanates from them.” We always hear the arrogance of political candidates whenever they come out to seek the votes of the people telling them that they want to be their servants and once elected the people find them acting like masters of the people instead.

    As of today, the above constitutional provision is meaningless as far as the common people in the private sector, specially the poor, is concerned for the simple reason that Philippine Justice has been established as none of the people’s business.

    The poor cannot enforce justice against the rich and powerful because justice is the exclusive monopoly of the rich and powerful. Justice is a one-way street in favor of the rich against the poor.

    I wish to invite your kindness to help us lead in the establishment of the Grand Jury and Trial Jury system. These systems will enable the people in the private sector, specially the poor, to have a deciding voice or vote in justice. Establishing the jury system will further strengthen the Judiciary Branch of the government as a true co-equal branch with the Executive and Legislative branches because, by then, the acts of the judiciary in dispensing justice are being directly supported by the vote of the people just as much as the officials of the legislature and the presidency are supported by the direct vote of the people.

    Juries shall likewise serve as a shield against the illegal intrusion of powerful public officials over the job of judges and prosecutors just like the way the judges, justices and prosecutors are shielded by the American people in the U.S. from the abuses of their powerful U.S. officials of their governments through and by their juries.

    With the Grand Jury system, the people shall be able to exercise their constitutional sovereign power and authority to independently investigate and indict secretly in court under judicial supervision any and all tyrannic and abusive powerful elements of society without necessarily controlling their power to decide to investigate and decide any suspected crime offender.

    With the Trial Jury system, the people shall be able to exercise their constitutional sovereign power and authority to decide in justice under the supervision by presiding judges against any crime offender of society regardless of power and wealth of such crime offenders.

    Private citizens, sitting as jurors, shall have no fear to decide in justice because their livelihood and employment with their private employers is beyond the control by any powerful public official.

    I have already drafted the proposed initiative to create the Philippine Jury systems with the title the “People’s Jury Initiative” and it is found in the following web site: http://www.the-filipino-people.com/PJI-1.html.

    For an introductory explanation about the creation of the jury systems law, you may kindly browse its home page below:

    http://www.the-filipino-people.com/

    I have patterned the proposed jury systems after the U.S. Federal Jury Systems. I, however, took into consideration the Filipino culture and idiosyncrasy in drafting the proposed jury laws.

    Currently, the leading proponents who are actively campaigning for the jury adoption are: Atty. Berteni “Toto” Causing (email: totocausing@yahoo.com), and Atty. Cita Garcia (email: citagrc@yahoo.com).

    By the adoption of the jury systems, enslavement of the poor, specially common and poor Muslims by their datus and sultans, shall stop. With the deciding voice of the poor in justice, it will force the rich and powerful to respect the rights and liberty of the poor.

    If the Grand Jury system is adopted, the poor who are being dispossessed of their homes and land holdings shall be able to secretly investigate and indict the masterminds that ordered the demolition of their homes which you cited in your article “Power vs Poverty” and have them tried and convicted by Trial Juries also manned by private citizens as jurors.

    By the adoption of the Jury Systems, those who have served in juries shall become the teachers of the law to their family members, friends and neighbors by means of the jury instructions issued to them by presiding judges – the authority most qualified and knowledgeable of the laws of society. Conducting jury trials from Batanes Islands through the Tawi-Tawi Islands 5 days a week and 52 weeks a year will educate the people to become law abiding citizens in the entire country.

    As it stands today, because of lack of the jury systems, the sources of “citizenship instruction” in most cases come from outlaws, their parent outlaws, such as corrupt officials, death squad masterminds, and rebel leaders, massacre leaders, the NPA, the MILF, the MNLF, and the Abu Sayaps.

    The use of the Jury Systems in the administration of justice is the common thread of peaceful and stable countries such as the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even Hong Kong, a communist enclave. The peoples in these countries are genuinely loyal to their governments because their governments are respectful of the rights and freedom of their citizens.

    Adopting the Jury System, the Philippines shall also become a stable democracy like those countries mentioned above. With justice in place in the Philippines, peace shall prevail among the Filipino people, Where there is peace, there is unity and prosperity that will prevail in the entire country.

    I hope you will kindly include in your agenda to help the poor by helping Atty Causing and Atty Garcia in their campaigns for the adoption of the Grand Jury and Trial Jury systems. With your kind help, the establishment of the jury system shall become your enduring, permanent and everlasting legacy to the Filipino people in their current and future generations.

    Adoption of the Jury Systems shall be the fulfillment of the wishes of the late President Ramon Magsaysay when he said “Those who have less in life must also have more in law.”

    “The Jury is the only anchor yet imagined by man that can hold a government to the principles of its constitution.” .. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.

    Thank you, Sir.

    Marlowe Camello
    Author of the “People’s Jury Initiative”.

    • September 11, 2010 4:28 am

      Your inputs are much appreciated and Will be directly transmitted by your truly to Sir Tito. Best regards, indeed. God bless all of our advocacies.

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