URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan: Mayor Amadeo Gregorio Perez 4th backtracked from his earlier order evicting all Muslims from the city and instead said his order covered only 10 drug-affected barangay (villages).
Perez’ turnaround came during a meeting with Rep. Makmod Mending Jr. of Anak Mindanao party-list on Wednesday.
The mayor told Amin that his standing order was only for residents in a Muslim compound in Barangay Camantiles.
The compound sits on a lot owned by the Perez family.
The mayor said he ordered the demolition of about 200 houses, which originally only numbered 10.
His father, former Rep. Amadeo Perez Jr., offered 10 families to construct temporary houses in what is now the Muslim compound when he was the mayor of Urdaneta City in 1987.
The younger Perez said his order also covered 10 villages some residents of which, according to the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, are involved in drug trafficking and other criminal activities.
Amin told The Manila Times after their meeting that they have no legal basis yet to say that the mayor abused his authority in evicting all Muslims from the city as reported in the media.
He said he supports the move of Perez to eject Muslims engaged in criminal activities, particularly those residing in the Muslim compound but that it should have a legal basis.
Amin and officials of the Urdaneta City Muslim Association (UCMA) appealed to Perez to spare the mosque inside the compound until they can find a relocation site.
The UCMA members also told The Manila Times that landlords and apartment owners in Urdaneta refused to take them as renters or lessees because officials in 34 barangay are monitoring them in compliance with Perez’s order.
Senior Supt. Ronald Oliver-Lee, police provincial director, said he is in favor of the demolition of the compound, citing previous reports that big-time pushers used the houses there as drug dens.
This was corroborated by the former city chief of police, Supt. Jeff Fanged, saying majority of drug suspects who were either arrested or killed in clashes with authorities here are residing in the Muslim compound.
Muslim groups, including go-vernment officials, condemn what they call “discriminatory” acts of Perez, saying they would only benefit radical groups in the country.
“We strongly condemn the mayor’s moves that will only divide Filipinos amid the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte for unity and peace-building. It will just bring hate to radical people,” lawyer Jamal Hadjiusman, president of the Philippines Muslims Society, also told The Manila Times by phone on Wednesday.
Hadjiusman was reacting based on a report of this paper on Tuesday that even the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) of Urdaneta has been requested “to enact an urgent ordinance stopping the entry of Muslims” in the city.
Similarly, in a statement furnished the media, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said he believes that the report “isn’t true, because this is nothing but discrimination.”
“In this day and age, it is unthinkable that there are local government officials who would rather take action based on prejudice instead of evidence, and would blindly uproot families from their homes rather than address the root of criminality itself,” Hataman added.
He invited Perez to a dialogue “to ensure that our Muslim brothers and sisters will not be treated like criminals simply because of their faith.”
The report on the eviction has become a buzz over social media websites since Tuesday that even tagged the mayor as among the “anti-Muslim” leaders in the country, with some calling for Ulama (Muslim clerics) to issue a fatwa (Islamic legal pronouncement]” against Perez.
WITH MOH SAADUDDIN