The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) facilitated a dialogue between the mayor of Urdaneta City in Pangasinan and Muslim migrants whose homes were demolished early this month.
More than 40 houses of Muslim families in Barangay Camantiles were dismantled in separate demolition operations done in four days by a joint city government and police team known as Joint Security Operation.
Police reports showed the demolition started with peaceful negotiations involving police officers, barangay (village) chairmen, Public Attorney’s Office lawyers and Muslim leaders.
The Muslim leaders were said to have agreed to the demolition.
They, however, complained that what happened to them was a typical “demolition-without-relocation” case that is contrary to law.
Adding more woes to the informal settlers are alleged cases of discrimination when they rent apartments, because they are usually turned down by landlords because they are Muslims.
There are also allegations of violence in some areas, especially in Sitio Apo, where houses were reportedly destroyed.
DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno has summoned Assistant Secretary for Muslim Affairs and Special Concerns Professor Hamid Ladjakahal to attend to the complaints.
Ladjakahal, accompanied by DILG regional, provincial, and city directors and Supt. Director Marcelino Desamito Jr., city police head, together with a crowd of Muslim residents, met with Mayor Amadeo Perez 4th of Urdaneta City at City Hall.
Perez clarified that he did not order Muslims to leave Urdaneta. He said Muslims are welcome to do business in the city but should avoid illegal activities, especially those related to drugs.
Some Muslim families requested financial assistance for transportation in going back home to their hometowns in Lanao province to which Perez committed to help.
Meanwhile, a dialogue was also held in Dagupan City, where a thousand Muslim residents are living along the shoreline.
City Mayor Belen Fernandez is planning to transfer Muslim residents to other areas in the city.
In the dialogues, it was unanimously agreed upon by all participants composed of Muslim residents, police officials and personnel, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency representatives, Perez, the Dagupan city administrator, and DILG officials led by Ladjakahal to exert all efforts in making Muslim communities in Pangasinan province drug-free.