A group of Non-Government Organizations in Cebu City bonded together and created an alliance which formed the Task Force Tawhanong Pagpuyo (TFT) to respond to the growing number of victims who experienced eviction and their homes being demolished. This problem resulted from the onset of globalization and the government’s development framework which often violated urban poor communities’ rights to housing.
More than 70% of the population in Cebu City is urban poor: they are unemployed or underemployed, have no land or security of tenure, and live in houses made of improvised and light materials. Despite the already inhumane conditions the urban poor experience, the government was demolishing their houses without an arranged relocation site.
The government development programs were designed and prepared without consultation and participation by the people. When the program was implemented, it drove away urban poor people from their homes. Involvement of community members and urban poor leaders in development planning enable the urban poor to voice their concerns directly to government agencies. As a result, the government agencies can develop solutions tailored to a community’s needs. This process not only realizes immediate gains in the right to housing, but also offers a training ground for urban poor leaders to participate in governance by holding government leaders accountable in protecting people’s right to housing.
Key steps in promoting a community development plan included the creation of local development councils and special bodies to involve people in the development planning process, monitoring, implementation, and the evaluation of the plan. Women were organized towards participation in local governance and pressuring Local Government Units to implement gender and development programs as mandated by law. Finally, the Local Housing Board was created to ensure the right to housing.
The TFT, through a conference, gathered urban poor leaders and identified specific issues. To support its claims and proposed alternatives, case studies were developed and research conducted. These were presented to the local government units and shelter agencies involved. An education and information campaign was conducted in various communities of participating urban poor organizations as well as with judges who issue the demolition and eviction orders.
With pressure mounted through a series of rallies and mobilizations, a local housing board was created that included representatives from the urban poor sector and NGOs assisting the urban poor. The local housing board prepared a comprehensive shelter plan for Cebu City. As a result of the effort, urban poor communities were provided the basic services they need. Demolitions and evictions cases in publicly owned lots were minimized and those subjected to demolitions and evictions were given relocation sites. As a result of working with the judges, a judge will now coordinate with the Local Housing Board before issuing an order for eviction involving privately owned lots. This makes it possible for the Local Housing Board to ensure compliance in cases of demolitions and evictions.
Human rights violations happen in many communities and areas where people are not aware of their rights. Often, marginalized sectors, like the urban poor, lack access to justice and are deprived of meaningful participation in governance as well as plans for the development process of the country. Participation, training and, empowerment of local leaders are key aspects in achieving a sustainable effort in community organizing processes.
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