Binay, BF clash over MMDA ‘human rights violations’

By Maria Althea Teves, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines – Bagumbayan vice-presidential bet Bayani Fernando and PDP-Laban’s Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay clashed over alleged human rights violations by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) under Fernando’s watch.

In ABS-CBN’s Harapan: The Vice Presidential Debate, aired Sunday-Monday over ANC, Channel 2, and Studio 23, Binay kicked off the first round by asking Fernando why the MMDA, under his watch, unilaterally confiscated and destroyed the goods sold by vendors during MMDA’s sidewalk clearing operations. He also asked why the MMDA removed “squatters” even without eviction notices.

Fernando responded by telling Binay that he was part of the Metro Manila Council which signed an ordinance allowing the MMDA to remove informal settlers and confiscate products of sidewalk vendors.

“Ikaw ay pumirma sa ordinansa ng Metro Manila Council. (You signed an ordinance of the Metro Manila Council),” Fernando said. “Yan ay batas (That is a law).”

That was after Binay asked Fernando the question: “Bakit naman yung mga paninda ng mga nanininda, pagka hinuhuli tinatapon ang kanilang paninda? Bakit ba naman, Bayani, walang abiso tinatanggal at iniiwanan at nakatiwangwang sa kalye? Hindi ba hindi pagsunod sa karapatang pantao iyon (How come the confiscated products of sidewalk vendors are thrown away? How come, Bayani, informal settlers are not warned before they are removed and are left on the streets Are these not human rights violations)?”

Fernando has been hit by critics for his violent dispersal of sidewalk vendors and demolition of houses of informal settlers.

(View profile of Bayani “BF” Fernando)

Clearing obstruction ordinance

The ordinance Fernando was referring to is MMDA Resolution 02-28 signed last 2002 by the Metro Manila Council, entitled “Clearing Illegal Structures and Obstructions.”

Fernando defended the MMDA ordinance by saying this was necessary so that people would not think that the MMDA takes advantage of the vendors by keeping their products after clearing them from sidewalks.

He said this was a better policy than putting vendors in jail.

The ordinance authorized the MMDA and the local government units to clear sidewalks and other public places in Metro Manila of all illegal structures and obstructions.

The “illegal structures and obstructions” include sidewalk vendors and those who provide services like shining shoes. Those who preach and seek alms on the streets are also not allowed.

(To read the ordinance, click this link: Resolution 02-28 of the Metro Manila Council)

It was signed by the Metro Manila Council, which consists of the mayors of Metro Manila. As head of Makati City, Binay is part of the Metro Manila Council.

Fernando said that it was the first ordinance he brought up to the Metro Manila Council when he became chairman last 2002.

‘Fernando a liar’—Binay

Binay, a lawyer, defended himself by claiming that he did not sign the ordinance since he knew it was a violation of human rights.

He accused Fernando of lying. “Ako, pipirma sa alam kong hindi tama? (Why would I sign something that I know is not right?),” Binay asked.

“Ang lakas ng loob mo sabihin na hindi totoo ang mga sinsasabi ko (How dare you say that my allegations against you are false),” he added.

“Alam ng taong bayan, ang mga kamatis sinisipa ng mga tao mo (The country knows that your men kicked the tomatoes),” Binay said with the crowd cheering.

Majority believe BF was truthful

Forty-five random-selected citizens from Metro Manila, Cebu, Naga City and Davao were given a Wireless Audience Response System (WARS).

WARS is a device wherein the audience members can press 2 buttons: one button means they believe the candidate gave a truthful answer; the other means they believe the candidate did not give a truthful answer.

In this round, 64% felt Fernando was truthful while 36% felt he was not.

“Wala kaming tinanggal na walang abiso (We did not remove any informal settlers without warning),” Fernando said.

He belied Binay’s claim that the MMDA did not assist informal settlers after their houses were demolished. He claimed the MMDA even provided shelter for people who needed to be evacuated.

As an example, Fernando said informal settlers who were removed in Mandaluyong City were given assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“You do not know that, mayor, because you do not attend council meetings,” Fernando said in Filipino.

Makati vs Marikina

During another round of the debate, Fernando asked Binay why Makati City, despite being a rich local government unit, has not been able to provide decent housing to many “squatters.”

In Marikina, where Fernando and his wife, Marides, have served as city mayor, Fernando said the city is not as rich as Makati, but it has been able to provide housing to its marginalized residents.

Binay criticized Fernando for using the term “squatters” instead of the more politically-correct phrase “informal settlers.”

He also said Fernando was wrong in saying there are still many informal settlers in Makati. Since he became city mayor in 1988, he said the number of informal settlers has gone down, and hunger has been significantly reduced. He added that the civic group, Gawad Kalinga, has been helping the city provide housing to its citizens.

Fernando replied by saying MMDA has had to clean up Makati’s esteros due to the garbage thrown by the city’s informal settlers. He said Makati hospitals have to serve many people who get sick due to the poor state of their habitat.

In response, Binay said Makati has been using its own revenues to provide basic services, including housing, health care, and quality education, to its citizens.

as of 03/22/2010 1:44 PM

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