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How are Kadamay folk after 2017 takeover of Bulacan housing?

By: - Correspondent / @inquirerdotnet
/ 05:40 AM December 31, 2019

PANDI, BULACAN—Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, or Kadamay, made dubious history in March 2017 by illegally occupying about 6,000 social housing units built by the National Housing Authority, or the NHA, for resettlement communities and uniformed personnel of the government.

That audacious act drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, although he later persuaded soldiers and policemen to drop their claims to the houses to prevent bloodshed.

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In succeeding years, Kadamay was accused of being a front for the New People’s Army, or NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Happy ending

But Kadamay leaders believe their three-year-old saga may have a happy ending by the start of the new year, following low-key negotiations to legitimize their occupation of the NHA’s low-cost homes.

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Lea Maralit, Kadamay Bulacan chair, said the group had asked for a P200 monthly amortization over 30 years. “It’s a verbal agreement. Nothing on paper yet,” Maralit said.

Kadamay led 8,494 families, or about 12,000 people, in forcibly entering idle houses at six social housing projects in Mapulang Lupa, Masuso, Cacarong Matanda, Cacarong Bata and Siling Bata villages on March 8, 2017, according to Kadamay national chair Gloria Arellano.

Many of the housing projects were developed during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III for the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) personnel. The other houses were reserved for informal settlers who were displaced from danger zones in Metro Manila.

Maralit said the NHA began reviewing the first set of documents submitted by 277 Kadamay families on the heels of a Sept. 19 agreement made in the House of Representatives between NHA Bulacan Director Ramon Paragas and the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers led by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.

The meeting was about the implementation of Senate Joint Resolution No. 2, adopted in 2018, authorizing the NHA to reallocate “unawarded” social housing units meant for uniformed personnel. These included low-cost homes surrendered by their original beneficiaries, which were taken by Kadamay.

Neither Paragas nor his staff have responded to queries about the arrangements as of press time.

Good for the town

But many families received similar assurances from Pandi Mayor Enrico Roque that an agreement could soon be reached regarding their legitimacy.

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Kadamay reached out to discuss payments, Maralit said, because many of the homes taken by the group did not have water or power and some of the group’s members ended up paying neighbors for utilities.

Roque said the local government had coordinated with the NHA about issuing certificates of award and entry passes so Kadamay recipients would become entitled to water and electricity services.

Roque said legalizing the Kadamay “occupiers” would be good for Pandi, a second-class municipality with a population of 89,075 (2015 census). Such a huge number of people joining the Pandi workforce would bring real economic growth to the town, he said.

Pandi is known for producing the Philippine national costume barong Tagalog, which are sold in key Metro Manila stores. The town is also one of the largest hog producing municipalities in Bulacan.

The Bulacan provincial government is developing a P100-million economic zone and business park at Pandi and neighboring Balagtas and Santa Maria towns.

Kadamay member Rosina Silvano said she looked forward to stability at the Atlantica Residence 2 in Mapulang Lupa.

She said she and her daughter joined the “occupy” movement to end the cycle of renting homes in Balagtas town. “My family is glad we don’t have to keep moving around. My daughter and I each have houses here,” Silvano said on Monday.

A breakaway group led by former Kadamay leader Jeffrey Ariz, which separated from Kadamay last year, has similar problems with their houses, Maralit said.

The two groups have a fractious relationship. Ariz’s group had publicly burned an NPA flag to protest Kadamay’s alleged role in converting members into communist rebels.

Maralit said the accusations made Kadamay members targets of government reprisals. She said members had no ties with the rebels and were not armed.

The communist label got stuck last year when members of Kadamay joined protests against a condiments manufacturer that was dealing with a labor dispute.

Rebel returnees

In late November and early December, about 300 people claiming to be Kadamay members were introduced to the media by the Central Luzon police as rebel returnees.

Kadamay member Richard Gonzaga, 28, said they were indeed NPA—“no permanent address.”

On the first day he and other members of the group stormed the NHA housing sites, Gonzaga said he was certain they had found their “permanent homes.” It took almost three years for that to happen, he said.

Gonzaga joined Ariz’s splinter group, but had remained friends with Kadamay veterans like Silvano despite their opposing views. He said they had the same goals: giving their families better lives.

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TAGS: Bulacan, Housing, housing take over, Kadamay, NHA
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