LAWMAKERS viewed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte allowing members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) to occupy government housing units in Pandi, Bulacan an invitation to disregard the rule of law.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said Duterte’s action may spawn bigger problems because other groups may occupy other housing units.
“It is a potential invitation to utter disregard to the rule of law, if not chaos and anarchy,” Lacson noted.
But since the Chief Executive had committed to give the housing units to Kadamay members, a system must be put in place for an orderly turnover of the housing units, he said.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito shared Lacson’s sentiments.
“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,” he said.
Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement Committee, said that Kadamay’s illegal takeover of the housing units should serve as a wake-up call for government to address the country’s massive housing problem.
He explained that government should not only focus on building housing units but should also draw a comprehensive and strategic plan in addressing other basic needs of beneficiaries such as access to livelihood, transportation, education, and health facilities.
Sen. Richard Gordon said when the President gave the housing units to Kadamay, he also gave “free ticket” to anarchy.
“These people are not above the law. And we should not do that,” he added.
The Senate is set to investigate Kadamay’s occupation of the Bulacan housing units on April 18.
Ejercito said lawmakers want to know who is accountable for the neglect of the housing projects and where the funds were funneled.
“Our inquiry will also tackle issues as to why a number of housing projects by the National Housing Authority remain substandard, unoccupied, and fragmented,” he said.
The President on Tuesday urged the soldiers and policemen for whom the houses were built to give up their units because he will build better homes form them.
Step to anarchy
Just like Lacson, Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list sees Duterte’s decision a step to anarchy.
“He is encouraging anarchy. Just imagine what will those poor Filipinos feel who took time and went through the process just to be awarded a housing unit and yet see what Kadamay did and got the favor of the President,” Alejano said.
“Illegal occupation of houses that don’t belong to you is legal now?” he added.
The former soldier also raised doubts on Duterte’s ability to fulfill his promise of better homes for uniformed personnel, saying he has yet to deliver on his campaign promise to double the salaries of soldiers and policemen.
The President has only increased the combat duty and incentive pay of the officers and enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces and the police from P1,500 to P3,000 per month. “The promise of bigger housing units for them needs huge funding, and that would be another promise which Duterte would probably fail (to fulfill),” Alejano said.
But for Rep. Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental and administration lawmakers Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis and Sarah Elago of Kabataan party-list, the President heeded the call of the needy.
Benitez, the chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said that the President’s plan would need an amendment of the 2017 national budget since an allocation has already been made to pay for the Pandi houses.
“We held a housing summit last year, and we learned that the government owns 300,000 hectares of land here in Metro Manila. We have 6,000 informal settler families. If we are going to build medium rise buildings for their houses, we would have enough land for that,” Benitez said.
He added that Kadamay members will have to pay monthly dues of at least P200 per month.
“Government housing is not free. We just have to rectify the provision of the General Appropriations Act (national budget) so that the NHA (National Housing Authority) won’t commit technical malversation. This does not need to go through an eye of the needle,” Benitez said in a radio interview.
“I support the decision of the President because the houses are idle anyway,” Benitez added.
Casilao and Elago said the President made a “good call” in resolving the problem since the Kadamay members only asserted their right to housing.
Not a good move
The military also views the President’s action as dangerous because it could encourage other groups to emulate Kadamay.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the Pandi incident should not be repeated.
“To avoid trouble, let them (have the housing units). But this should not be repeated. There is a rule of law that we should follow, so that things are in order. If not there would always be trouble,” he said.
“Any move against established laws is always not a good move,” Padilla added.
“The whole episode is both good and bad. Good in the sense that the discourse on housing was opened up again, and that it’s being expedited by agencies concerned. Bad in the sense that it’s setting a precedent that may signal a bad start for others who are interested to foment more kinds of similar activities,” he pointed out.
He said that soldiers, especially the newly-weds, should be allowed to get two units so that they can have room for expansion once their families grew.
“That is the basis of their request that they be allowed to amortize two units so that if there is an addition to the family, they would not be burdened in the house expansion and their quality of life would not be affected,” Padilla explained.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said policemen are willing to give up housing units in Pandi but it will no longer allow groups to “grab” houses meant for police personnel.
Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos, PNP spokesman, said police officials are coordinating with the NHA to ensure that other housing units intended for policemen and soldiers will not be forcibly taken by other groups.
The PNP and AFP also have housing units in General Trias, Cavite and in Calamba, Laguna.
LLANESCA T. PANTI WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN