The militant group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) has called on the Duterte administration to stop its plan to demolish squatters houses amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“As organizers, tenants, homeless people, and community members in the U.S. working for housing justice, human rights, and an end to the criminalization of our communities, we stand in solidarity with Kadamay and the struggles of urban poor people in the Philippines. We support Kadamay’s demands: we call for an end to demolitions, for shelter for the poor, for making use of idle housing for the homeless, for an end to the Drug War,” said Kadamay in a statement on Tuesday.
“We demand an end to the political persecution of activists. Urgently, we call for COVID-19 testing kits and free medical services for the poor and homeless, instead of arresting people living on the streets,” Kadamay said.
Kadamay said from the United States to the Philippines, low-income and homeless members of the communities are hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, the global solidarity must be strengthened, and recognize how struggles for housing rights, human rights, and community health are interlinked, Kadamay said.
The Filipino urban poor suffer from massive homelessness and joblessness. Their plight has only worsened under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Forced evictions and demolitions are rampant and expected to escalate.
Duterte plans to demolish the homes of more than half a million slum-dwellers by 2022, to make way for large infrastructure projects under his “Build Build Build” program, which will profit large domestic and foreign corporations.
Kadamay is the Philippines’ largest alliance of the urban poor people. Since 1998, it has worked to expose and oppose unjust housing policies and worsening human rights atrocities.
In 2017, Kadamay mobilized 12,000 homeless Filipinos to occupy 6,000 idle housing units just outside Metro Manila. “Occupy Bulacan” continues to this day, sending a global message of solidarity and militant possibilities for organizing the homeless.
Duterte’s bloody “War on Drugs” has slaughtered 30,000 people, mostly urban poor. To repress dissent, the regime has also unleashed ‘counter-insurgency’ attacks, in the form of illegal arrests, raids, arson, and paramilitaries, against Kadamay and other activists, labeling them ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists’ to justify the crackdown.
Now the COVID-19 pandemic is being used as a pretext to further expand militarization and criminalize homelessness, while depriving the population of badly needed health services and access to their basic needs. Duterte has put Metro Manila and the entire island of Luzon on lockdown. Street dwellers are being arrested and slum communities demolished with their inhabitants thrown in jail.
“The Philippines is a former U.S. colony. The challenges that urban poor Filipinos continue to face are a direct result of neocolonial military and economic policies backed by the U.S. The criminalization of Filipino human rights defenders and organizers grows out of a long history of strategic ties between the Philippine and U.S. militaries,” said Kadamay./Stacy Ang