Philippines: Police demolition team meets mass resistance in San Juan City

Residents hurling stones at members of the demolition team

23 hurt in demolition of shanties in San Juan
By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star, January 12, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – At least 23 persons were hurt when the demolition of shanties along P. Narciso street in Barangay Corazon De Jesus in San Juan City turned violent yesterday morning.

Members of the demolition team, San Juan Police, Eastern Police District, National Capital Region Police Office and the Special Weapons and Tactics team clashed with the residents, who threw rocks, bottles and even molotov cocktails.

“We observed maximum tolerance, but they (squatters) started attacking us. We are here to maintain peace and order during the demolition, but they provoked us,” Superintendent Thomas Arcallana said.

Among the injured were policemen, members of the demolition team and at least three residents.

They suffered injuries in the head, belly, face and thighs and were rushed to the San Juan Medical Center.

The windshields of several vehicles parked near the area were also shattered.

Grace Cortes, spokesperson for Mayor Guia Gomez, said some of the victims suffered injuries in the chest, forearm, head and mouth.

Cortes said the 123 families, whose shanties were the subjects of the demolition, were part of the 400 families scheduled for relocation since Jan. 25 last year.

The families will be relocated to Southville 8B in Barangay San Isidro, Rodriguez town.

“Seventy-three of the 123 families have already signed their intention to be relocated to Rodriguez,“Cortes said.

She said the demolition was supposed to be peaceful since the city government consulted the affected families.

Police Officer 1 (POI) Benedict Aguda, one of the responding policemen, suffered injuries in the belly and both legs. “I was hit by a bottle,” he said.

Aguda said his companion, a certain Police Officer I Primcias, suffered first-degree burns when a molotov cocktail was lobbed at them.

“I think they have long been prepared for the attack,” Aguda said.

Former President Joseph Estrada blamed “activists” for the violence that marred the demolition.

Estrada told The STAR in a telephone interview that the residents were infiltrated by leftist groups and professional squatters engaged in house rental.

“Each of the affected families was given P10,000 aside from transportation for their transfer to the relocation sites. All are free,” he added.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, meanwhile, condemned the arrest of some of the residents.

“The violent confrontation could have been avoided had the city government listened to the proposals by the community residents who had long suggested various modes of in-city relocation wherein residents would either transfer to a different lot within the city or move inwards of their existing community to give way to the city projects,” Reyes said. – With Non Alquitran, Rhodina Villanueva

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