[Appeal] Vendors face forced eviction and food insecurity -AHRC

PHILIPPINES: Vendors face forced eviction and food insecurity
February 22, 2013

ISSUES: Right to food; inhuman and degrading treatment; hunger, starvation, corruption; impunity; rule of law
Dear friends,

Asian Human Rights CommissionThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Defend Job Philippines about an eviction notice served on the vendors of Luneta Park (also called Rizal Park) in Manila. The proposed eviction will not merely leave the vendors jobless but also jeopardize their food security. It would also render many of them who stay inside their carts in the park homeless as they have nowhere else to go.
Ironically, it is not the National Parks Development Committee but the Police that has served the notice ‘informing’ the vendors that they would assist the NPDC in clearing operations.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Continuing the persecution of vendors of the Luneto Park, the Manila Police has served a notice of eviction on them through the Ermita Police Station. The notice informs them about the imminent eviction of them from all areas of the Luneto Park on 22 February while also telling them that the police would assist the National Parks Development Authority in the endeavour.

Most of the vendors have been living and vending their wares in the park for more than 15 years while some have spent even 30 years in park. Organised under the People’s Democratic Hawkers’ and Vendors’ Alliance (PDHVA), the vendors have approached the authorities innumerable times for getting their legitimate rights. The authorities, however, have been relentless in their persecution especially in the Phase 2, 3 and 4 inside the Park. Many of the vendors even live inside the park and sleep in their carts as their meager incomes do not allow them to afford renting a house and commute to the park daily. Forced eviction will force them into destitution.

The vendors has been hounded and arrested in the past at the behest of the NPDC. The situation remained unchanged even after 2004 when the Department of Tourism has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the vendors’ representatives and granted them the rights selling their wares inside the park while continuing with the negotiations. The vendors were also given a moving cart in exchange for them agreeing to keep the Park clean and orderly. The organised livelihood programme would have contributed to maintain the historical and cultural heritage of the Park but it was revoked unilaterally by the new NPDC director Juliet Vegas when she took charge. She ordered eviction of the vendors and demolition of their carts inside the park and led to huge chaos. Many vendors had to flee the Park.

The vendors led by PDHVA successfully resisted the assault and forced the NPDC to revoke a demolition order in first quarter of 2011. Further negotiations between the authorities and the vendors resulted in NPDC promising them better place in exchange for their former vending places while also asserting that it did not want the Park to look like a market. The authorities, however, surprised the vendors by going back on its promise and setting up tents in their former vending places for rent every Friday and Monday.

The director of NPDC issued another verbal order with no statutory backing ordering the vendors to pay a rent of 300 Pesos in phase 4 and 200 Pesos in phase 2. NPDC rationalized its order by arguing that they wanted to recover their expenses in setting up tents which they had rented out to big business including Retail Chains. The coming of these stores in the Park adversely affected the already dwindling income of the vendors who were now also forced to pay the unaffordable rents.

The NPDC delivered another blow to the vendors in Feburary 2012 by going back on its promise of giving them alternative space and asserted that it wanted to turn Luneta Park into a Zero Vending Zone. The vendors then approached the Department of Tourism which asked the NPDC to resolve the problem of the vendors but NPDC Director Juliet Villegas ignored the recommendation.

NPDC, instead of following the recommendation, upped the ante against the vendors and has been harassing and threatening them ever since. It forcibly evicted 15 vendors on February 6, 2012 inside the Halamanang Pilipino followed by another eviction of vendors and confiscation of their goods and personal belongings on February 15, 2012. The authorities launched another attack on the vendors on March 27, 2012 when more than 20 security person confiscated all the goods and personal belongings of the vendors while also physically assaulting them. They reportedly punched a pregnant vendor and brutally attacked the others.
The illegality of the attack is betrayed by the fact that vendors approached city mayor and got their confiscated goods released.

To assuage the vendors, officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development approached them and asked them to fill up forms to work as street sweepers and immediately vacate their vending spaces. The employment offered, however was just for 3 months, leaving the vendors, dependent on daily earnings, with no choice other than refusing to accept it. The current assault continues the cycle of violence and intimidation against them and exposes them to hunger.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate intervention in Ms. Sarathi Mondal’s case. You may also demand an inquiry into why she was not provided with ration card and benefit of other welfare schemes that she is entitled to.
The AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing asking for their intervention in the case.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Vendors face forced eviction and food insecurity

Name of the victims: Vendors of the Luneta Park,
Place of incident: Manila, Philippines.

I want to draw your kind attention to eviction notice served on the vendors inside the Luneta Park. Continuing the persecution of vendors of the Luneta Park, the Manila Police has served a notice of eviction on them through the Ermita Police Station. The notice informs them about the imminent eviction of them from all areas of the Luneta Park on 22 February while also telling them that the police would assist the National Parks Development Authority in the endeavour.

Most of the vendors have been living and vending their wares in the park for more than 15 years while some have spent even 30 years in park. Organised under the People’s Democratic Hawkers’ and Vendors’ Alliance (PDHVA), the vendors have approached the authorities innumerable times for getting their legitimate rights. The authorities, however, have been relentless in their persecution especially in the Phase 2, 3 and 4 inside the Park. Many of the vendors even live inside the park and sleep in their carts as their meager incomes do not allow them to afford renting a house and commute to the park daily. Forced eviction will force them into destitution.

The vendors has been hounded and arrested in the past at the behest of the NPDC. The situation remained unchanged even after 2004 when the Department of Tourism has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the vendors’ representatives and granted them the rights selling their wares inside the park while continuing with the negotiations. The vendors were also given a moving cart in exchange for them agreeing to keep the Park clean and orderly. The organised livelihood programme would have contributed to maintain the historical and cultural heritage of the Park but it was revoked unilaterally by the new NPDC director Juliet Vegas when she took charge. She ordered eviction of the vendors and demolition of their carts inside the park and led to huge chaos. Many vendors had to flee the Park.

The vendors led by PDHVA successfully resisted the assault and forced the NPDC to revoke a demolition order in first quarter of 2011. Further negotiations between the authorities and the vendors resulted in NPDC promising them better place in exchange for their former vending places while also asserting that it did not want the Park to look like a market. The authorities, however, surprised the vendors by going back on its promise and setting up tents in their former vending places for rent every Friday and Monday.

The director of NPDC issued another verbal order with no statutory backing ordering the vendors to pay a rent of 300 Pesos in phase 4 and 200 Pesos in phase 2. NPDC rationalized its order by arguing that they wanted to recover their expenses in setting up tents which they had rented out to big business including Retail Chains. The coming of these stores in the Park adversely affected the already dwindling income of the vendors who were now also forced to pay the unaffordable rents.

The NPDC delivered another blow to the vendors in Feburary 2012 by going back on its promise of giving them alternative space and asserted that it wanted to turn Luneta Park into a Zero Vending Zone. The vendors then approached the Department of Tourism which asked the NPDC to resolve the problem of the vendors but NPDC Director Juliet Villegas ignored the recommendation.

NPDC, instead of following the recommendation, upped the ante against the vendors and has been harassing and threatening them ever since. It forcibly evicted 15 vendors on February 6, 2012 inside the Halamanang Pilipino followed by another eviction of vendors and confiscation of their goods and personal belongings on February 15, 2012. The authorities launched another attack on the vendors on March 27, 2012 when more than 20 security person confiscated all the goods and personal belongings of the vendors while also physically assaulting them. They reportedly punched a pregnant vendor and brutally attacked the others.
The illegality of the attack is betrayed by the fact that vendors approached city mayor and got their confiscated goods released.

To assuage the vendors, officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development approached them and asked them to fill up forms to work as street sweepers and immediately vacate their vending spaces. The employment offered, however was just for 3 months, leaving the vendors, dependent on daily earnings, with no choice other than refusing to accept it. The current assault continues the cycle of violence and intimidation against them and exposes them to hunger.

I, therefore, urge you to

1. Immediately revoke the eviction orders against vendors in the Luneta Park,
2. Ensure that zero vending policy and the continued harassment of vendors under the same is stooped,
3. Ensure the reinstating of the stalls and the vending spaces to the vendors,
4. Ensure than genuine livelihood project for the vendors and their families is devised in consultation with their representatives,
5. Prosecute those guilty of the violations of the human rights of the vendors.

Sincerely,
_______

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

3. Corazon Juliano-Soliman
Secretary, Department of Social, Welfare and Development
Constitution Hills, Batasan Pambansa Complex,
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel/Fax: +63 (2) 931-81-91

4. Sec. Joel Rocamora
Lead Convener
National Anti-Poverty Commission
3rd Floor, Agricultural Training Institute Building
Elliptical Road, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 927 9796 / 426 5249
Email: napc.gov@gmail.com

5. Director
National Parks Development Committee
NPDC Compound
T. M Kalaw St, Rizal Park, Ermita
Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +633027119
Email: info@nationalparks.ph

6. Secretary,
Department of Tourism
T.F. Valencia Circle
T.M. Kalaw St., Rizal Park
Manila.
PHILIPPINES
Email: webmaster@tourism.gov.ph

7. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10,
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

8. Ms. Raquel ROLNIK
UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing
Attn: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
C/o UNOG-OHCHR
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010 (ATTENTION: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ADEQUATE HOUSING)
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Thank you

Hunger Alerts Programme
Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME
Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-004-2013
22 February 2013

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