On April 23, 2012, a supposedly peaceful dismantling of a wet market left one dead and 40 injured people when the informal settlers of the Silverio Compound confronted the police along Sucat Road in Parañaque City.
The sole casualty was Arnel Leonor, a 19-year-old resident of the said residential compound lying on the payment with a fatal gunshot wound in the head. The police brought him to the nearest medical facility, but he was declared dead on arrival.
Based on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) initial autopsy, the bullet that killed the victim possibly came from a 9mm or a .38 revolver, distinctively different from the M16 rifles carried by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) of the Parañaque City Police.
The agency also reported that one arrested resident was tested positive for gunshot residue during the paraffin test, although they remained uncertain about who fired and hit the victim in the head.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Francisco Baraan III sought NBI to investigate probable criminal charges against those responsible for the death of Leonor and the wounding of roughly 30 individuals.
Leonor was given a hero's burial by the Silverio residence and his supporters six days after his sudden demise. They vowed to fight until justice is served to the young victim and all the victims of demolition in their community.
The Parañaque City Council authorized the local government to expropriate a 9.7-hectare property in Barangay San Isidro through city ordinance 806 in 2003.
After that, actor Joey Marquez, who was the city's chief executive back then, filed a demand for expropriation against Magdiwang Realty Corporation and Fil Homes Development Corporation, which resulted in a mandate favoring the city to form a socialized housing program for the thousands of informal settlers living in that particular community.
In 2006, the local government paid the Magdiwang and Fil Homes a 15 percent deposit of land worth 10.2 million pesos.
On October 17, 2011, the Parañaque Regional Trial Court issued a Writ of Demolition. According to Marquez's former vice mayor and successor Florencio Bernabe, Jr., its enforcement was required to establish the local government's ownership of the property.
On April 11, 2012, Silverio’s residents declined to accept the Writ of Demolition. The writ declares that all persons holding the areas along the Silverio Main Road, Purok 1 and 4, Silverio Compound, Sucat, Parañaque City, “are hereby ordered to voluntarily vacate and demolish all structures/ establishments/ buildings/ shanties/ improvements erected therein” within ten days and “to surrender peacefully the possession of the land premises you are presently occupying.”
Failure to do so, stated the writ, would force the sheriff to “use force and effect the said order to the full force and limit provided by law.”
Bernabe claims the purpose of the demolition was not yet to demolish houses but to condemn commercial, non-residential establishments to establish ownership along Silverio Road in Purok 1 and Purok 4. He says that the trouble with the inhabitants was that they chose not to comprehend the order.
On the other hand, Sara Bernal, the leader of a local homeowners association in the area, says that the order's contents are vague. The structures also include residences, and the writ does not distinguish the commercial property from residential.
Despite continuous discussions to postpone the demolition and the cooperation of the protesters to follow the police’s appeal to allow traffic movement, the CDMU prepared to lean toward the direction of the demonstrators. When they thought the CDMU was about to disperse them, the residents began throwing stones at the police. Eventually, the police reacted by firing teargas in the direction of the protesters.
The CDMU and SWAT members were forced to backtrack, but moments later, gunshots were heard, allegedly from the police. The series of gunshots seized demonstrators to withdraw, but the CDMU and SWAT teams began arresting people. It was the moment Leonor was seen lifeless on the pavement.
Unfortunately, the assault does not end with the indiscriminate firing of Leonor and others wounded. The police picked up anyone they wanted and assaulted many of those who were already apprehended or subdued by either truncheoning, punching, kicking, or slapping them. Some of them were mere bystanders in the area. They did not run away because they thought they would not be arrested. The police also carried out arbitrary house-to-house searches to look for more people to pick up.
Both parties could have prevented the bloody incident if only Bernabe did not divert the initial agreement between the residents and Marquez. The entire 9.7-hectare was supposed to be used for socialized housing, and the 28,000 families occupying the property will amortize the land to the local government. But Bernabe changed the plan by reducing the lot for socialized housing to three hectares and pushed to build 32 medium-rise condominiums that can only cater to some 1,900 families.
Bernabe is eyeing a public-private partnership (PPP) project with SM Development Corporation (SMDC) to form a mixed-commercial complex, including a mall and a condominium, to the remaining 6.7 hectares of the property in an attempt to attract private investors in the city.
When the 2013 local elections came, then-Representative Edwin Olivarez, one of those who negotiated with the authorities against the imposition of the demolition order, enjoyed a landslide victory over Mayor Bernabe's namesake, then-City Councilor Florencio Bernabe III, with 115,851 against 82,551 votes.
Olivarez's brother, Eric, also part of the negotiating team, also topped the first district congressional race against former Representative Ed Zialcita, a Bernabe-ally.
Olivarez supporters cited the violent demolition as the weakening point to Bernabe's campaign, while on proclamation day, Bernabe supporters at the city hall were accusing Olivarez of cheating.
The older Bernabe tried to regain his former post to Olivarez during the 2019 local elections but failed with a large margin.
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