Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, in a press conference today, urged President Duterte to immediately address the concerns of thousands urban poor led by KADAMAY who occupied thousands of housing units in at least six (6) settlement sites in Pandi and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. This is after the National Housing Authority (NHA) issued an eviction notice to the occupants last Monday, saying they are given seven (7) days to leave the premises or they’ll be forcefully evicted.
“We find it ironic that these settlement areas remain unoccupied, for years even, while thousands of urban poor workers and peasants suffer in inhumane, vulnerable conditions. Meanwhile, contractual labor and lack of regular jobs press down workers’ wages and further makes decent housing, however ‘affordable’, inaccessible to many,” Elago said.
The president earlier said that what they did was “anarchy” and that he will not hesitate to use force if necessary to evict the occupants.
“The president should recognize that what KADAMAY and thousands of urban poor did was just—especially amidst worsening poverty, joblessness, and landlessness which forced them into this dire situation. This is not anarchy; this is the militant assertion of their right to free and adequate mass housing. Pagpapakita ito ng kapalpakan ng gobyernong magbigay ng pangmasang pabahay at serbisyong panlipunan sa mamamayan (This shows the government’s failure to give pro-people housing and basic services to the poor),” Elago added.
Large lack of housing
Elago pointed out that the government’s current mass housing paradigm is flawed and profit-driven. She added that these housing units have been unused not because of lack of demand, but because such framework really does not work for the poor.
The housing backlog as of December 2016 stands at 2.02 million housing units; which could then increase to 6.8 million by 2022. Meanwhile, there are more than 1.50 million informal settler families (ISFs) nationwide, of whom 39% are concentrated in Metro Manila, based on government’s latest data. This is rooted in the extant neoliberal policies on employment, education, land reform, and housing and urban development–all of which serve only the interests of local and foreign big business interests.
“In the cities, informal settlers are forced out of their homes in favor of condominium units and skyscrapers. In the countryside, farmers are deprived of land due to the monopolization of land by a few. This has been the practice during past administrations. Saan pa lulugar ang mahihirap? Ginigiba na nga ang kanilang bahay, inaagawan na nga sila ng lupa, pagbabayarin pa sila ng mga housing unit na napakaliit at substandard, at malayo sa kanilang pinagtatrabahuan (Where will the poor stand? Their houses are bulldozed, their lands are taken away, and now they are made to pay for very small and substandard housing units far from their work),” Elago added.
Resolve issues of urban poor
Elago urged President Duterte to address the legitimate issues of the urban poor.
“Duterte’s declaration of ‘no mercy’ to the occupants reflects the government’s inutility in providing mass housing and social services. What’s not merciful is his declaration of using force instead of addressing the matter. Hindi daw maganda ang ginawa nila dahil nakakahiya. Nahihiya sila dahil nalantad ang kanilang kainutilan sa hindi pag-aksyon sa karaingan ng mamamayan. Tapos ngayon gagamitan pa ng dahas. Ano na lang ang kahihinatnan ng mamamayan kung bawat daing nila ay pasismo ang sagot ng estado? (Duterte deemed their actions shameful. They are ashamed because their inutility in their inaction to the people’s pleas is exposed. And now they threathen to use force. What else will the people expect if every demand is met by the state with guns and fascism?),” Elago said.
“He should listen to the legitimate concerns of the people and move to resolve them, and not resort to a police-military solution in almost every issue. The people have made it clear, they want food, houses, and jobs. Isinusuka na ng mamamayan ang mga neoliberal na polisiya ng gobyerno na umaatake lamang sa karapatan at kagalingan ng mamamayan. Kung talagang maka-Kaliwa siya, hindi na siya dapat magdalawang-isip pang tugunan ang daing ng mamamayan (If he truly calls himself a Leftist, he shouldn’t think twice in responding to the people’s just demands),” Elago said.
“The government must recognize the urban poor occupants as residents and immediately award these housing units to them, solve the labor problem by ending contractualization and increase the minimum wage, freely distribute land to the farmers; and replace the anti-people and neoliberal Philippine Development Plan with one that reacts to the concrete needs of the people,” Elago explained.
“The youth is in solidarity with the urban poor, and is ready to join their ranks and defend them. As long as their demands stand, the masses will rally and hold Duterte accountable for his broken promises,” Elago ended. ###