On the morning of 23 September 2010, a 500-person demolition crew and 300 police officers armed with rifles, batons, truncheons, stun guns and tear gas surrounded the Metro Manila slum known as San Roque. Their mission was to clear out thousands of residents and demolish their homes so that the Philippine government could “develop” the land into a new Central Business District with high-end hotels, luxury condominiums and a golf course.

The residents of San Roque, however, had other plans. Thousands gathered at the entrance to the neighbourhood facing EDSA, the country’s busiest highway, and erected improvised barricades made from barbed wire, wooden poles and iron sheets normally used for roofing. Local activist leaders stood at the front of the crowd making speeches and chanting: “Fight demolitions! Housing is a right!” 

“Some threw rocks and bottles to keep the demolition team away,” recalls Ilang-Ilang Quijano, a filmmaker who has documented the conflict between the San Roque residents and the authorities.

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Michael Beltran

Michael Beltran is a freelance journalist from the Philippines.