Group slams Christmas demolition via arson in San Juan

LABOR center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today what it called “demolition via arson” last Christmas morning in San Juan City, demanding that the 2,000 poor residents who were left homeless by the “monster fire” be allowed to return to their community and rebuild their homes.

Residents of Saint Joseph, the affected community, have been the subject of demolition threats since 2010, with the San Juan local government planning to build high-rise buildings for commercial use in the area. The residents have faced four fire cases since that year.

“Arson has always been used to destroy the homes of the urban poor and evict them from their communities. We cannot help but think that the Christmas morning fire in San Juan was caused by arson,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“We are calling on the local government of San Juan and the Aquino government to allow the residents to return to their communities and rebuild their homes. Their refusal to do so would further show just how heartless they are towards the poor,” he added.

“We are also calling on the residents of San Juan to be vigilant. The Christmas morning fire shows that those who want them evicted from their community will not stop at nothing until they get what they want,” he said.

KMU condemned the Aquino government for continuing to carry out its war against the urban poor and for pursuing it amidst the Christmas season.

“The Aquino government and local governments should be gifting the poor with decent homes during Christmas. Instead, they are continuing their war against the urban poor through evil schemes,” Labog said.

“The Aquino government is responsible for the San Juan fire. Its programs and policies continue to cause the violent demolition of urban poor communities,” he added, referring to the government’s Public-Private Partnership program.

“We are calling on the urban poor to heighten their vigilance and strengthen their unity against demolition. The San Juan fire is an indication that we will face many battles in the coming year despite the elections,” he said.

The labor leader said that demolitions are usually halted in the months leading to an election as local government leaders avoid antagonizing the urban poor, who compose a big portion of the electorate.

He said demolitions may continue even until the 2013 elections because of the Aquino government’s commitments to big business.

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