Informal settlers or “squatters” on Tuesday decried the Aquino government’s relocation projects, rating them “PG” or “Pure Gimmickry.”
Hundreds of “squatters” from various waterway communities affected by an ongoing relocation program held a Kalbaryo ng Maralita (Calvary of the Poor) in various churches in Quezon City and Manila before proceeding to the foot of Mendiola Bridge to dramatize their plight and denounce what they claimed was the government’s “rabid anti-poor policies.”
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Vice President Jejomar Binay and government housing officials are “trying their hardest to make [the ongoing relocation program]look like a housing program, even when [it fails to meet]modern living standards, even for the poor,” according to Orly Gallano, chairman of the Metro Manila and Rizal chapter of Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang taga-Lunsod (KPML).
“The government has been blaming us for the flooding of Metro Manila to justify the demolition of our homes but its true agenda is simply to bulldoze us to far-flung areas for us to rot to death [there],” Gallano said.
The President “may have ‘saved’ us from a danger zone, only to condemn us to a death zone,” he added.
Groups affiliated with KPML depicted the crucifixion and death of Christ (the 11th and 12th stations of the Catholic Way of the Cross) in an untraditional fashion, punctuating it with fiery speeches and cultural numbers.
The first station of their Kalbaryo was staged at Santo Domingo Church on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.
The groups were joined by other affiliates from relocation sites in Towerville and Sitio Gaya-Gaya in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, and Sitio Batya in Bocaue, also in Bulacan.
Those from the relocation sites belong to Samahan ng Mamamayan-Zone One Tondo Organization (SM-Zoto), which has been assisting relocated and urban-poor communities since the Marcos martial-law regime in 1972.
Gallano conceded that the government is providing fairly decent houses but, he said, the beneficiaries will only be forced to abandon their units since lack of job and livelihood opportunities makes them unable to pay the P350 to P500 monthly amortization.
“An alarming rise of reports of abandoned units, teenage pregnancies, sex-for-food and petty thefts in relocation sites in Bulacan, Rizal and Laguna are glaring enough to conclude that the decongestion and relocation program has failed miserably,” he said.
Rev. Fr. Enrico Martin Adoviso, parish priest of the Most Holy Trinity Parish in Sampaloc, Manila, where the groups held the 3rd leg of their Kalbaryo, said, “Unless the government comprehensively addressed roots of poverty and social injustice, the gap between the country’s elite and the marginalized [would]widen ten-fold in a matter of years, and so the housing crisis in the country [would]worsen.”