Don’t evict Manila’s small-scale vendors for the Pope’s visit


President Benigno Aquino III

Department of Tourism
Department of Public Service,
City of Manila
Elizabeth Espino, Director
National Parks Development Committee
Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada,
City of Manila
Philippine National Police
Metro Manila Development
UN Special Rapporteur on extreme
poverty and human rights
UN Special Rapporteur on the
right to food
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate

RE: Concern regarding actions by the government of the Philippines
against small-scale vendors in connection with the forthcoming papal visit in
January 2015

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, wish to express our concern
regarding purported plans to forcibly remove small-scale vendors working in and
around Rizal (Luneta) Park, including Kalaw, Sta. Cruz, Manila City Hall, Padre
Faura and Pedro Gil Streets, Manila, in anticipation of the visit of Pope
Francis to the Philippines in January 2015. We are informed that the
proposed removal will constitute the latest in an ongoing pattern of State
action of harassment, evictions and the confiscation or destruction of property
perpetrated against small-scale vendors in recent years. We are concerned
that these measures have resulted in violations of the right to work, right to
food, right to an adequate standard of living and adequate housing, among other
human rights, and that their rights will be further violated if the proposed
removal takes place.


We understand that more than 350 vendors have
worked in and around Luneta Park where they have sustained their livelihoods
selling food and refreshments to the park’s visitors for years. The vendors
depend on their ability to sell their products to the park’s visitors in order
to sustain their livelihoods, provide food for their families, and earn
sufficient money to ensure their children’s ability to attend school. Following
a recent announcement that the vendors will be removed from Luneta Park in time
for the visit by the Pope, scheduled for January 15-19, 2015, they have
expressed serious fears that they will be rendered destitute and will suffer
serious difficulties in obtaining sufficient food for themselves and their
families, among other impacts.

We are informed that, after the appointment of a
new Director of the National Parks DevelopmentCommittee (NPDC) in 2010, a
‘Zero Vending Policy’ was adopted to ensure that the park does not serve as a
market space; even while larger businesspeople enjoyed support in establishing
stores owned by corporate food chains in areas of Luneta Park formerly occupied
by small-scale vendors. Soon after this policy was adopted, a series of
demolition and eviction orders against the Luneta Park vendorsallegedly
began to be implemented and vendors became subject to ongoing harassment and
intimidation which have impeded them from selling their goods, resulting in a
substantial drop of already-meager income. The arrests and detention of several
vendors and the destruction or confiscation of their property during the
removals has likewise compounded these impacts. It is reported that several
families are now unable to send their children to school, since they can no
longer pay for transport, meals and other costs associated with their
children’s education. The removals have reportedly resulted in physical
injuries affecting multiple vendors, including pregnant women in some

We are informed that, in response to the continuing
impact on their human rights and livelihoods, the vendors have appealed to the
authorities of the Philippines on several occasions, including filing a
petition in July of 2012 with the Office of the Ombudsman and opening a case at
the Regional Trial Court against NPDC officials and policemen involved in
evictions 2013, in April of that year; but that these measures have not resolve
the threats they are facing.

We wish to recall that the Philippines is party to
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
since 7 June 1974; the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment (CAT) since 18 June 1986; the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 23 October 1986 and the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 5
August 1981. We are concerned that the small-scale vendors in and
around Luneta park face serious risks to a range of human rights recognized in
the above-mentioned instruments, including: the right of everyone to an
adequate standard of living for herself or himself, including adequate food,
clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions;
the right to work and the right to just and favourable conditions of work,
including a “decent living for [everyone] and their families” and “safe and
healthy working conditions”; the right to non-discrimination, including in the
field of work; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to
freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to
education. We remind the Philippines that States, in complying with their
human rights obligations, must consider the informal sector and note the
comments by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
stating that that measures taken to reduce to the fullest extent possible the
number of workers outside the formal economy “…must reflect the fact that
people living in an informal economy do so for the most part because of the
need to survive, rather than as a matter of choice.” The CESCR has also
established, in its General Comment 18, that core obligations relating to the
right to work under the ICESCR include (a) ensuring the right of access to
employment, especially for disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and
groups; (b) to avoid any measure that results in discrimination and unequal
treatment in the private and public sectors of disadvantaged and marginalized
individuals and groups and (c) to adopt and implement a national
employment strategy and plan of action based on and addressing the concerns of
all workers on the basis of a participatory and transparent process that
includes employers’ and workers’ organizations.


In the context of the imminent risk of violation of
the human rights of small-scale vendors in connection with the forthcoming
papal visit in January 2015, and the continuing harassment and violations of
the human rights mentioned above, we strongly urge the government of the
Philippines to:

1. Respect the human rights
of the vendors working in and around Luneta Park by, among other steps,
refraining from threatening or carrying out their removal in connection with
the forthcoming papal visit

2. Take urgent steps to
identify and address human rights violations experienced by the Luneta Park and
other vendors in Manila, including ensuring access to judicial or other
appropriate remedy

3. Ensure that
small-scale vendors working in and around Luneta Park will enjoy the
ability to work and sustain their livelihood, free of harassment and
interference, and

4. Engage meaningfully with
the Luneta Park, and other area, vendors and their advocates in relation to
ongoing negotiations concerning the park’s future development to avoid retrogressive
steps and ensure livelihood security.

* For
more information or current updates on this case, visit 

* To sign the petition, visit here.