“Sobra naman ang mga Araneta. Ang dami na nilang lupa. Ang yaman na nila. Bakit pati itong kapirasong lupa namin gusto pa nilang kunin? Pinatay na nila ang anak ko. Maawa naman sila sa amin.”
This heart wrenching lament, told to me by a sobbing, grey-haired mother in front of her son’s dead body, sums up the anguish of 40,000 residents of Pangarap Village, a 156-hectare property in Caloocan City now being claimed by Greggy Araneta’s Carmel Development, Incorporated (CDI).
Nanay Teresita Gomez has lived in Pangarap for the past 44 years. Her youngest son, Sol, was shot dead by security guards of CDI last July 23 when they broke up a picketline set up by residents opposing the company’s moves to evict them.
Nanay Teresita, like most mothers here, is the wife of a former soldier who was granted a lot in this place under Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 293, setting aside a small portion of the 7,000-hectare Tala estate claimed by the Araneta family to be used for housing for government employees, including members of the Armed Forces and the Presidential Security Group.
Assured of tenure, Nanay Teresita and her fellow beneficiaries built permanent homes, obtained titles to their properties and paid real estate taxes, as good citizens do. Schools, churches and various public facilities were eventually built, barangay units were established, and elections regularly held in the area.
In other words, Pangarap Village had developed into a vibrant community of poor and middle-income families. Nanay Teresita bore all her 10 children here. Sol, her fifth child, worked as a tricycle driver and operated a neighborshood eatery.
Sadly, their “pangarap” of having their own homes and building an ideal community became a nightmare when the Supreme Court ruled recently that the land still belongs to CDI. The ruling upholds an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeals that reversed the Regional Trial Court’s ruling favoring the government and the Pangarap residents.
Armed with the SC decision, CDI recently started moves to evict the residents of Pangarap without benefit of a court order and in violation of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA). Early this year, CDI’s armed security guards put up gates and checkpoints in and around the village.
Last April, demolition teams with rifle-bearing escorts arrived in the dead of night to destroy a number of houses. In response, residents started holding nightly vigils to guard against the intrusions and illegal demolitions. On April 28, four security guards of the Securicor Agency fired at the residents, wounding four.
The worst incident happened last week. At 6 a.m. on July 23, CDI security guards, armed with shotguns, M-16 and M-14 rifles attacked and shot at a picketline. Witnesses say it was just like in the movies, with the bad guys firing away like there was no tomorrow and the victims scampering away like rats.
Killed were Sol Gomez, who at the time he was shot was a few meters away from the barangay hall, texting his fellow residents for help. Also shot and killed was another long time resident, Rommel Portades, who was taking pictures and video footages of the attack. It was his footages that were later used by television stations to show the attack.
Wounded by gunfire were residents Diosdado Cacal, Henry Abaygar, Ricardo Calison, a certain de la Cruz and two others who refused to be identified in fear of their lives.
Four CDI security guards were later arrested but many more remain at large, including security head Mike Tome. The firearms surrendered to the police by CDI did not inlcude the M-16 and M-14 rifles whose bullet fragments were found in the bodies of those killed and wounded.
At present, what matters most to Nanay Teresita is that her son’s killers are brought to justice. But in her heart, she fears that more blood will be spilt, more lives will be lost.
In the end, this is not about who holds a title or who won in what court. For Nanay Teresita, its just that the Aranetas are insatiable and that society doesn’t seem to mind as more dreams turn into nightmares in this paradise that they have come to know and love as Pangarap Village.#