Human Rights Consciousness Week: Rights violations unabated

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

LUGAIT, Misamis Oriental –“Do not take me to the hospital… I won’t last much longer anyway. Whatever happens, persist in our struggle to defend the picket line for our right to a decent living,” Nixxon Tungao told the people who carried and brought him to the hospital.

Wearing a grubby tee, waning denims and barefooted, Nixxon’s aunt Adelina Rudino, 57, was devastated after the demolition team led by Sheriff Norberto Labis enforced eviction and destroyed their recently built shanties in Barangay Calangahan here.

Human Rights Consciousness Week: Rights violations unabated
LUGAIT, MISAMIS ORIENTAL. Police didn't wear nameplates during the demolition on December 5 and 6, 2013. (Anjo J. Bacarisas)

Adelina stared into space, desperate as the demolition team took of what’s left in her ruined shanty like lumber, iron sheet and other belongings.

Penniless and starving, Adelina was pacing back and forth in her destroyed home.

“We don’t have a place to live, and worst we don’t have food to eat,” she said.

And while this reporter interviewed her, she was starving.

Adelina said that it was the second time that their makeshift shanties were demolished.

‘Cruel and cunning’

The first demolition happened on May 28 to 30 when roughly 280 families were evicted and opted to erect temporary shanties along the highway of the demolished area after their houses were destroyed.

Sobbing, Adelina said, “Our town mayor is cruel and cunning… because he just let the election passed before executing the demolition (last May). What he did to us is unforgivable. As our elected mayor, he needs to help us and not side (Emma Añora).”

After the demolition team destroyed their homes last May, they braced themselves to the scorching heat of the sun and the drench of the rain.

In heavy downpour and stormy nights, they struggled to prevent their lopsided roof from flying while making sure that their children would not get drenched.

Adelina said they are being treated like animals – like stray dogs who are constantly beaten without a safe refuge.

“Just because we are poor doesn’t mean they have the right to treat us like animals,” she said.

Adelina said that during the first demolition, they (demolition team and police officers) allegedly destroyed their livelihood – root crops and ready-to-harvest bananas that are the family’s only source of income aside from her husband’s income from fishing.

But this means (fishing) is also threatened since police officers are patrolling the shore and allegedly castigated those who attempt to fish.

“We live here for more than three decades. The damage they have done to our lives is so immense. They killed my nephew. This is so inhuman,” Adelina said.

“Because of the demolition, we lost our means of living. Life is now even harder especially that my husband’s health is declining. He always complains of his ulcer and muscle spasm every time his overworking,” she added.

Anyone who would pass by the area would see scruffy children ages few months old and above traumatized.

Most of them are afraid to get separated from their parents.

One child told his mother, “Ma, I’m hungry.”


Nixxon’s wife Rusell, 21, is devastated of her husband’s sudden death.

Still shocked, she managed to narrate the incident that led to her husband’s fatality.

“My husband was furious when he saw us (our son, a 9-month old baby and I) lobbed with teargas,” Rusell said.

“I was so scared because my baby fainted. I thought he was already dead,” she added.

When the demolition intensified, residents started to fight back.

According to Rusell, she was separated from her husband in the ensuing scuffle.

People were running, seeking anything that can shield them from teargas.

Women were attending to their children who nearly fainted due to the smoke coming out from the teargas.

But when subsequent gunshots were fired, Rusell panicked.

People were screaming, and Rusell overheard her neighbor saying her husband was shot.

She hurriedly went to her husband’s location, but their neighbors already rushed him to a private hospital in Iligan City.

“I am strongly convinced that (Labis) commanded his team to fire bullets and aimed it to my husband who was harmless and weaponless to strike back,” Rusell said in a broken voice.

“We didn’t incite any violence. We just barricaded our homes so we could prevent them (demolition team) from destroying our houses,” she added.

Rusell said that their neighbor told her of her husband’s last words – to never cease with the struggle.

Rusell’s heart was about to explode the moment she arrived at the hospital and learned that her husband died.

Rusell and her son lost a loved one and left homeless.

Her husband’s wake was held at a neighbor’s shanty.

“Even if the police officers’ knew of my husband’s wake, they still continued to harass us. They didn’t respect even the dead. They are ruthless,” Rusell said weakly.

“If they continue (demolition), I don’t know where else to go,” she said.

She also hopes that people will have the heart and help them in rebuilding their lives, as well as provide them any kind of assistance, especially medicine, food and shelter.

“I want justice for my husband’s death,” said Russell.

Meanwhile, along the roadside, Mary Chris Jabagat, 14, was carrying a placard, “Panubagon sa PNP sa kamatayon ni Nixxon.” She is a student at Lugait National High School.

According to her, she cannot go to school because of the demolition. Most of her school stuff was misplaced after their house was dismantled.

“I will help my parents in defending our homes,” she said.

With the demolition incident where hundreds of families are displaced, Rhodora Bulosan of Gabriela Northern Mindanao said that it is a clear indication of human rights violation.

She quoted R.A. 9262 or a law against violence against women and children saying, “The State values the dignity of women and children and guarantees full respect for human rights. The State also recognizes the need to protect the family and its members particularly women and children, from violence and threats to their personal safety and security.”

She also said that instead of protecting the welfare of the people, police remain the primary perpetrators of violence against women and children.

Demolition done

Despite the uncertainty, the residents yielded to the negotiation that Misamis Oriental (MisOr) Yevgeny Vincente Emano brokered on Friday.

MisOr provincial administrator Edmundo Pacamalan Jr. told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that the residents declined to stay at Lugait gymnasium while the initial payment to acquire the 1.6 hectare land for their relocation is still sourced out.

Pacamalan said Lugait Mayor Willie Lim has started to process the relocation about six months ago. “The process really takes time that is why up to now the relocation could not be made available yet due to the owner’s demand of a 50 percent down payment,” Pacamalan said.

The province and the town are providing relief for the evicted families who are now taking refuge beside the highway outside the perimeter of the land where their houses used to stand for more than 30 years.

No nameplates

Supt. Leonilo Cabug, Misamis Oriental police director, said four persons, including two police officers, were hurt in the ensuing melee.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Emano is forming a panel to investigate the bloody demolition in Barangay Calangahan last Thursday, said Edmundo Pacamalan, the provincial administrator.

Pacamalan said the panel will investigate allegations from the homeowners that the policemen involved in the demolition do not have nameplates, which is a violation of Philippine National Police regulations.

“We have to investigate who is responsible for the death of Tungao and bring the suspects to justice,” Pacamalan said.

Reporters were able to photograph members of the police unit in Lugait who were not wearing their nameplates.

Adelaida Tungao, mother of dead victim Nixon Tungao, said they have filed a murder complaint against the policemen before the National Bureau of Investigation in Iligan City.

Cabug, the provincial police director, said he is willing to surrender all firearms of policemen involved in the demolition for ballistic test to determine who fired the fatal shot.

He said those police officers without nameplates during the demolition will face administrative charges.

Children’s rights

The children who periled and suffered in Barangay Calangahan have rights that demand respect from adults, including those who perpetrated the violent demolition.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the government should ensure that they survive and develop healthily.

Article 16 of the Convention says that the law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their homes and families.

In article 24 of the Convention, children have the right to good quality health care and clean water to keep them healthy. While Article 27 dictates that children have a right to a quality of living that could meet their physical and mental needs.

And in Article 36, any children should be protected from any activities that could harm their development.

However, during the first demolition on May 28, Brian Pitugo who is only four years old pleaded to the police officers not to destroy their home.

Crying and pleading, Brian refused to leave amid the thrashing on their walls.

Unaware, he pleaded for his rights as a child that halted the demolition for a few precious moments.

On the second demolition, a one-year-old boy suffocated from the teargas lobbed by the demolition team.

Eyewitnesses said the baby was rushed to the shore and submerged in the seawater to save him. The residents took him to the hospital to address the risk on his life.

Others have lost their parents, and those children living under the roof of around 200 houses that were demolished are now unsecure of their abode and security.

The state with its law enforcers is supposed to be protecting the children from harm. But in the case of Calangahan, they violated the rights of the children in many ways.

On the same Convention, the rights of the children are a special case because it has to be provided by the state or the adults for them. How can children develop trust on other people if at an early age they were betrayed by the people who are supposed to be protecting them?

The children according to the Convention are given these rights with accompanying responsibilities.

For instance, the Convention says: “If children have a right to be protected from conflict, cruelty, exploitation and neglect, then they also have a responsibility not to bully or harm each other.”

Given that their right against cruelty is violated by adults or the state, would it mean that they also have the right to differ from practicing their responsibilities? It makes people wonder what kind of future the demolition perpetrators were thinking the moment they started lobbing teargases and harassing the residents with their children experiencing the horror.

The children’s parents got nowhere to go, the children also got nowhere to go, so the only option they have on that moment was to stay and defend the makeshift shanties they considered home.

Based on the data gathered by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao sub-region (RMP-NMR) during the first demolition, nearly 40-percent of the displaced are children aged below fifteen years old.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), under Article 25 (1), states that “everyone has the right to live adequately for the health and well-being of the person and family.” And the specific elements of that need that has to be satisfied are food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.

The demolition victims in Calangahan have no place to go, and if relocation would take place (hopefully) in the future will they have livelihood to supply their basic needs?

Most of the displaced are fisher folks, putting them in the countryside is depriving them of their means for a living. How can they bring enough food on the table to keep their children healthy?

How can they live adequately for their health and well-being after the demolition?

More’s the pity; members of the demolition team took their lumber and the ruins of their demolished homes. They could have used it to build makeshift shelter to help them get through the cold nights and rainy days.

“How can a ‘Court Order’ and the right of the Achondoa Agro-Industrial Corporation to own the land caused deprivation of around 200 families of their right to life?” (With a report from Mindanews)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 08, 2013.


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