Concentric Rings, Part II: land-grabbing, land conversion and the untold human cost
By Lila Shahani
Ang buhay sa tumpok
"Hindi talaga ako papayag. Magbubuwis talaga ako ng dugo. Ipaglalaban ko talaga ang lugar na ito."
Pol had been a cheerful, voluble man, inordinately fond of teasing his wife and playing pranks on his three children. He had tried out all sorts of odd jobs in his time -- from painting buildings to driving tricycles -- but continued to struggle because of debilitating bouts of asthma. He and his wife Trining had always dreamed of owning their own home and living someplace idyllic away from the capital, which remained congested and polluted, as always, except in the most privileged enclaves.
The new neighbourhood was called Paradise Park Village -- 7.2 hectares of barren lands situated in Barangay San Vicente in San Pedro, Laguna. As more settlers had streamed in from other provinces, the land tenants -- who had originally planted root crops and banana trees, and occasionally tended cattle -- eventually found work in an adjacent piggery farm. By 1984, the entire property had been bought by Maximino Argana, who, it later turned out, had been a Marcos crony.
Which explains why, in the heady aftermath of the EDSA revolution, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chose to sequester the entire area altogether. What is more difficult to understand is how -- and on what grounds -- Crown Asia (a Vista Land company, the 2/3 supermajority of which belongs to the family of Manny Villar) was able to acquire the properties in 2002, using a title under the name of a certain Jose Nuñez. From that point onwards, guards began to monitor the movements of the residents in a 2.18-hectare zone in particular (Lot 157), which housed around 205 families. Almost overnight, it would seem, a giant wall had been erected around this perimeter, preventing the tenants from repairing their homes or building new structures. In the blink of an eye, they had suddenly been denied access to roads, which then made access to electricity and running water all the more scarce and difficult.
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