MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - A protest on Agham Road in Quezon City turned violent Monday as informal settlers threw rocks, soda bottles and even feces at policemen allegedly intent on demolishing squatter shanties in the area.
Shots were fired while illegal settlers threw rocks and pillboxes at policemen who dismantled a barricade on Agham Road. TV footage showed police advancing slowly using shields as the settlers threw rocks at them.
Three policemen were injured in the clash. One resident, Troy Castillo, was arrested during the scuffle but managed to escape the police after other settlers came to his rescue.
Informal settlers blocked the road early Monday to protest an impending demolition of a shantytown in the area. Settlers said they were given until yesterday to leave the area voluntarily for a road widening project.
The violence started after the informal settlers blocked the vehicle of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales from entering the Ombudsman's office. The settlers also refused to talk to representatives from the Commission on Human Rights.
Police told the settlers to remove the barricade since it was impeding traffic in the area.
'Syndicate coddling squatters'
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista accused activist group Anakpawis of inciting the violence on Agham Road in Quezon City to prevent police from removing squatter shanties of 2,000 informal settler families in the area.
Speaking to ANC, Bautista said he received an intelligence report that a group is extorting P1,000 each from informal settler families in exchange for protection from relocation. He said the group started the violence to protect their "rackets."
"Pinagsasamantalahan ang mga beneficiaries dahil meron kaming natanggap na intelligence report na sinisingil nila ng tig 1,000 pesos yung mga tao...para ipaglalaban sila na manatili diyan. Obvious na obvious na raket yan ng mga taon diyan," he said.
Bautista some 8,000 of an estimated 10,000 informal settler families have already accepted the Quezon City government's offer to relocate.
He said the remaining informal settlers were renting out their shanties at P2,500 per person. He said the informal settlers are illegally tapping into water and electricity services while charging their tenants.
Bautista said the area of the demolition is the site of a public-private partnership of the National Housing Authority and Ayala.
The mayor said the 2,000 families are "holding hostage" at least 12,000 potential job opportunities by preventing the development of the area.
He said property developer Ayala is planning to build several buildings in the area including hotels and office buildings.