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2 senators air warning on housing anarchy

NEWDWELLINGS Homeless families belonging to Kadamay cross an open field to their new shelters inVillage 2 ofAtlantica housing project in Pandi town, Bulacan province. —JOANBONDOC

NEWDWELLINGS Homeless families belonging to Kadamay cross an open field to their new
shelters inVillage 2 ofAtlantica housing project in Pandi town, Bulacan province. —JOANBONDOC

An invitation to anarchy.

This was how Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon described on Wednesday President Duterte’s decision to allow homeless families illegally occupying thousands of idle units in six government housing projects in Bulacan province to own them.

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“It is a potential invitation to utter disregard of the rule of law, if not chaos and anarchy,” Lacson said in a text message.

Senator Gordon, in a phone interview, said what the President did may sow anarchy.

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“The National Housing Authority should have solved the problem for the President,” Gordon said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte announced that he would let members of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) keep the housing units in Pandi town and San Jose del Monte City originally meant for military and police personnel.

The President promised to build better houses for members of the police and the military by December, as he sought understanding for the poor.

Kadamay reminder

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police on Wednesday said they would abide by the President’s order.

Interviewed on dzMM radio station, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. said the Kadamay action in Bulacan reminded the government of its responsibility to the poor, but warned against such action becoming a bad precedent.

“While we appreciated what Kadamay did, because it was a reminder to the government of our responsibility toward the marginalized people, it does not mean that we will have to do it in the future because we have to deal with them in accordance with the law,” said Evasco, who oversees government programs, including housing, for the poor.

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He said the government would not allow itself to be “hostaged” by certain people. “Now, government should be on top … . [T]his government is listening and addressing the needs for our people.”

‘Orderly turnover’

Lacson said a system must be put in place “for an orderly turnover of unoccupied housing units to the homeless among our countrymen if the government is already committed to giving out the units to the Kadamay group.”

“If not attended to properly, my concern is, if this move is replicated all over the country and has become uncontrollable, we have a big problem,” he said.

In a statement, Sen. JV Ejercito said Mr. Duterte’s decision was improper.

Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement, said the occupation by Kadamay of the housing units served as a “wake-up call” for the government to act on the massive housing problem.

“While I appreciate the President’s heart for the poor and homeless, as (Senate) chair, this should not be the means for anyone to become a recipient of housing projects,” he said.

The senator said he was against any form of a government project being held hostage in order to justify anyone’s need for shelter, unless in times of calamity.

“We want them to comply with the process so that their occupation would not become a precedent for other groups demanding housing from the government,” Ejercito said.

He said he would look into Kadamay’s occupation of the housing units and find out those accountable for the neglect of the housing projects at the hearing on April 18.

“Our inquiry will also tackle issues as to why a number of housing projects by the NHA remain substandard in quality, unoccupied and fragmented,” he said.

In a statement, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago urged the President to look further into the country’s housing crisis. “The Duterte administration should investigate why so many houses are left unoccupied despite the huge housing backlog,” Elago said.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, recalled that during the inspection of the housing units, some soldier-beneficiaries asked if they could get two units, as they could afford to pay for them because of the small size.

Padilla said each unit was good  only for a single soldier, not a family. Thus, single soldiers who would eventually get married wanted more space.

He said the military was hoping that no similar occupation of government housing units would happen in the future.

“The whole episode is both good and bad. Good in the sense that the discourse on housing was opened up again… Bad in the sense that it’s setting a precedent,” he said.

Grateful

Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the affected police personnel were grateful to the President for promising  them “better, bigger and more comfortable homes” by December.

“So, we’re willing to sacrifice for the benefit of this group (Kadamay). At the end of the day, we’re grateful to the President for also looking after the welfare of our policemen and soldiers by giving a better, bigger and comfortable home, with electricity, water connection. All you need to do is move in,” Carlos said in a briefing.

He noted that the President also told Kadamay members to avoid housing units that were already occupied or awarded to policemen and soldiers. —WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP

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