2 journalists, 17 others hurt as violence mars clearing operations

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) At least 19 people, including two news reporters, were injured Thursday as violence escalated anew in the planned clearing operations at the Laperal Compound in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City.

Tension rose after negotiations between residents of the compound, which has been declared a danger zone, and members of the demolition team broke down around 2:30 p.m.

Rocks and “molotov’’ bombs were thrown toward the police dispersal unit, resulting in injuries to Niko Baua of ABS-CBN and Rommel Lopez of TV 5 when they were hit by rocks on the head. At least three others were also hurt in the rock-throwing incident, the second day it happened at the contested lot.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has been sent to inspect the compound and open a dialogue with the residents who had been resisting the demolition and relocation.

“The President’s orders are to open a dialogue with the residents, ask the help of the Makati local government and talk to the association. I think these aims will be addressed,” Robredo said in Filipino.

After consultations with Jo Arnaiz, one of the officials of the homeowners’ association, Robredo said that inhabitable structures will be cordoned off while houses not damaged by the fire which hit the area last week will not be included in the clearing operations.

He also hoped to find relocation plans by June before school starts. “By tomorrow (Friday), we will immediately start planning better relocation shelters,” he said.

According to National Capital Region Police Office Director Nicanor Bartolome, the fire-damaged area would be off limits to people. He said that as per agreement forged between the police and the homeowners’ association, residents who want to retrieve personal belongings in the fire-damaged area would have to get clearance from the Makati police.

Makati Mayor Junjun Binay reiterated that the city is only enforcing the order declaring Laperal off limits for safety reasons after the compound had been burned five times in the last few years. “There is no demolition or forced relocation. The area is a danger zone and the police only wanted to clear the area of a few elements who refused to follow orders,” he said.

The violence caused the temporary closure of a part of the southbound lane on Edsa and which resulted into a traffic jam on the major thoroughfare.


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