Members of Kadamay protested in front of the National Housing Authority office in Quezon City on the occasion of the 25th year of the Urban Development and Housing Act on March 24. They dubbed the protest #OccupyNHA, following their campaign #OccupyBulacan where more than 5,000 homeless urban and rural poor families have been occupying idle units in Pandi, Bulacan since March 8. They were joined by various progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Kadamay Secretary General Carlito Badion said there is a shortage of 5.6 million housing units for the poor in the whole Philippines and the number continues to rise.
“Sa araw ding ito, mahigpit na ipinananawagan ng Kadamay ang pagpapabasura sa UDHA. Hanggang ngayon, wala ni isang nagtagumpay na programa ng pabahay. Nananatili na maraming homeless sa ating bayan. Marapat lamang na ito ay ipabasura at maglikha dapat ang gobyerno ng tunay na programa para sa pangmasang pabahay [On this day, Kadamay rigorously calls on the junking of the UDHA. Until now, there has been no housing programs that succeeded. There are so many homeless in the land. It is only just to call for the junking of UDHA and for the government to create a genuine housing program for the poor],” said Badion.
The urban poor leader said the National Housing Authority should be renamed to ‘Napakaraming Homeless Authority.’
“Ang ahensyang ito ang kasangkapan sa negosyong pabahay, maraming tiwangwang at nasasayang na pabahay [This agency is the instrument for turning public housing into business, so many idle housing units, so many units wasted],” lamented Badion.
Badion also blamed the UDHA for creating divisions among the poor, approving applications for public housing of those who were able to comply costly requirements of the NHA and then disqualifying the poorest of the lot.
UDHA, not pro-poor
In his radio program, former Interior and Local Government secretary and Senator Joey Lina who authored the UDHA said the national government should file charges of trespassing against the Kadamay-led occupation.
Lina said that as per the law, local government units (LGUs) are mandated to provide shelter. These are not for free, but should be affordable housing for residents who need them. He recommended that the budget of LGUs be raised so that the LGU can identify and build more housing for those staying in their jurisdiction, unlike the idled housing for police and soldiers who he said he heard were unable to occupy their units because they were assigned somewhere else.
Kadamay members noted how Lina refers to the law as “anti-squatting” law, not public housing law.
Badion said the UDHA of 1992 or Republic Act 7279 has been used to legalize demolition, displacement of the poor, and to relegate the poor to faraway relocation sites that remove them from their jobs or livelihood.
In the experiences of Kadamay in the demolitions when the government sells land to a private entity and in the case of big fire that levels down communities of hundreds to thousands of families, they said that the government only had to “make a show” of complying with demolition requirements of 30-day notice and consultation, where the consultation is only informing the poor that they would have to leave. Other requirements of the law for demolition are usually violated like conducting it during office hours and good weather, presence of LGU officials, IDs for demolition team and the police not standing 50 meters away but becomes dispersal units where also the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team carrying high-powered firearms were mobilized.
Kadamay said the socialized housing and community mortgage program in the law, meanwhile, have not been adequately implemented and have also provided for the exacting of money or profit from the poor, where they refer to the housing program of the government as “negosyong pabahay” [housing business].
“Kahit makabayad ‘yung mga mahihirap, pagkatapos ng maraming taon bigla na lang silang papalayasin kahit ipinasok na sila sa CMP, tulad ng mahihirap sa San Roque Navotas na higit 10 taon na naka-CMP o kaya sa Pangarap Village sa Caloocan na 30 years nang naka-relocate yung mga sundalo at pulis doon tapos palalayasin kasi may proyekto si Greggy Araneta [Even if the poor can pay, after so many years they would be evicted even if they are under the CMP, like the poor in San Roque Navotas who were 10 years under CMP or in Pangarap Village in Caloocan that have been the relocation for soldiers and police but would be evicted because Greggy Araneta has a project in the area],” said Maritess Bacolod of Kadamay Metro Manila.
The group also lamented the lack of livelihood in the relocation sites.
“Walang kabuhayan sa mga relokasyon, maikli man pero sinabi ng batas dapat meron doon. Kaya ang mga maralitang nililikas sa mga malalayong relokasyon ay para na ring dinadadala sa impyerno, sa kanilang kamatayan [There is no livelihood in the relocation sites, even it was shortly mentioned in the law it said there it should be secured. So the poor that were displaced to faraway relocation sites were brought to hell, to their death],” added Bacolod.
They said that in most cases, the urban poor are taken to faraway, poor towns left to be forgotten. Many do not want to relocate due the lack of livelihood, social services, public utilities and the poor condition of the housing units of the NHA. But now that homeless poor from the province of Bulacan and villages in Quezon City near Bulacan ask for housing, only to occupy the idle ones, they said it was still being denied to them.
“Pinananawagan ng Kadamay sa lahat ng mamamayan na walang tahanan, okupahin ang mga pabahay at ipinawagan na ipamahagi ng libre at magtayo pa ng pangmasang pabahay ang gobyerno ni Duterte [Kadamay calls on the all the people who have no homes to occupy the idle public housing units and to push the Duterte government to build more houses for the poor],” concluded Badion.
Investigate housing problem
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said in a Facebook post the Duterte government should probe the circumstances that led to the thousands of unoccupied housing units throughout the country.
Reyes said the past administration of the NHA and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating COuncil, then headed by President Noynoy Aquino’s classmate Chito Cruz, undertook housing projects using the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP. Billions of public funds were rechanneled to the DAP whose release and use were determined by Aquino, instead of the Congress that has the power of the purse. The DAP was dubbed as ‘presidential pork barrel; or discretionary funds of the president that was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Reyes posted, “Cruz himself in a congressional inquiry in March 2016 admitted the “hellish” conditions of the P18.9 billion AFP-PNP housing units and that soldiers and policemen were not consulted regarding the housing projects.“
Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, was recalled to have held a dialogue with the police and soldiers and why they don’t occupy their housing units in November 2016. Pinoy Weekly reported that Commander Elpidio Trinidad Jr., President of the AFP Housing Board, said the soldiers did not like the housing projects because the units were too small. Police Senior Supt. Wilfredo Cayat said there is a “mismatch” in the location of the housing units and the needs of the police.
“Nakita ko sa pag-ikot ko na ang daming ginawa ang NHA na housing para sa AFP at PNP, ang dami dito na parang white elephant. Walang nago-occupy, ang daming units [I saw when I went around that the NHA built so many housing units for the AFP and PNP personnel, most of these are like white elephant. No one occupies, so many units],” Vice President Leni Robredo, then head of the HUDCC of the Duterte administration, said in a media interview on August 2016.
The term ‘white elephant’ refers to a possession that its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.
The housing units for the AFP and PNP personnel in the whole country had a budget of P 20.78 billion.
The NHA served an eviction notice to members of Kadamay occupying units in Pandi, Bulacan on March 20 that should expire after seven working days or on March 28.