PHILIPPINES: Arrest of four poor urban leaders who were negotiating the postponement of a demolition of 21 homes

On 12 March 2014, Dondito Albasin, Sr., 56; Michael Poticar, 39; Alberto Jojo Llantada, 21 and Virgina Barrios, 28, were arrested by the police. Albasin, the current president of the neighbourhood association together with other officers and residents of Kilometer 23 West Service Road in Barangay (village) Cupang, were negotiating with the demolition team and the police. They sought to postpone the eviction from some 21 houses comprising 125 families living within a 4,500 square meter lot. Albasin stated that they already talked and discussed the matter with the city officials and representatives of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP).
According to Albasin, the authorities, based on a mutual agreement, agreed to give them enough time to prepare for their eventual relocation.
The team, headed by Court Sheriff Felix Falcotelo, insisted that the demolition should proceed. The reason given was: Judge Restituto V. Mangalindan, Jr., of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) branch 80, previously issued an order for the settlers to vacate the premises. Furthermore, he had decided the case in favour of the supposed land-owner, a Mr. Marcelo Rubio.
While the negotiation was still going on, stones and debris were thrown by unidentified persons at the negotiation site. At the same time, around 200 policemen, including members of the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) who were carrying automatic rifles reacted aggressively. This caused the start of the violence, according to the local residents.
Albasin was grabbed by the shoulders and shirt by police officers and pushed to the pavement. While down, he was kicked in the legs. Another officer, using the muzzle of his rifle, struck Albasanto in the chest and armpit. Llantada,on the other hand, was punched on the lips and then hit at the back of the head with a hard object.
Meanwhile, Poticar was pulled aside and put inside a police patrol car where he was beaten by an intelligence officer, attested to by witnesses. Barrios (Virginia) while pacifying and calming her parents, was grabbed and pulled by a policeman. She fainted during the scuffle. The four of them were handcuffed and brought to the Muntinlupa City police station at 10am. They were charged with obstruction of justice and released on March 14, 2014 after posting bail.
Several other residents were hurt, suffering injuries when the police grabbed and pushed them around indiscriminately. They were punched, kicked and hit with truncheons. They are: Marvin Sua, Regie Focbit, Robert Villanueva, Jayfe Celeste, Bryan Asmolo, Roger L. Barrios, Buboy De Lima, Limney Barrios, Dondino Albasin, Joan Liantada, Ailene Brovo, and Thelma Brovo.
A video camera belonging to Clarissa Lanohan was being used to document the incident. Without any reason, it was confiscated by the police and has not been returned.
According to the victims, most of the police had no name tags to identify who they were. Only three were identified. They included a female officer named Major Salvadora, the field commander at the time, Aguirre known as a police intelligence agent who pointed a gun at Roger L. Barrios and Police Senior Inspector Jocelyn V. Carino.
With hammers, crow bars and mallets, the demolition crew eventually started tearing down the shanties. They proceeded to pull down other houses not covered by the supposed court order.