Kadamay actions obscure the giveaway of choice lands to the wealthy


Marlen V. Ronquillo

IF you were observant enough, you would know the current physical make-up of the 100-hectare plus National Government Center in Quezon City. You would not see the original mandate of the choice urban land—which was to host spanking and gleaming government buildings with contented civil servants packing the area. The original dream to see Quezon City rise up as a mini Washington DC, a real seat of government and host to most if not all of the vital state institutions, is not what you will see.

Instead, you will see mixed-use developments choking the area, north and south, east and west, mostly giant, boxy malls and skyscrapers. Privately owned. Whatever government facilities have been recently built—mostly minor ones such as the Jose Fabella Hospital which has been relocated from its Sampaloc site—are being drowned by skyscrapers mostly built or being developed by the companies mostly owned by the 14 Filipinos named by Forbes as the country’s wealthiest.

The following are a puzzle to the general public:
. What deal with the nabobs of real estate covered outright sale, and which lucky real estate nabob acquired what properties?

. What deal with the nabobs involved lease, or long-term lease which is practically the equivalent of virtual ownership?

. Under what administrations were the choice urban lands given away, a violation of the original purpose of the NGC?

. What were the terms of the sale and lease agreements?

Lastly, why did Congress, which can file impeachment resolutions based on the itch of a particular member, fail to use its power of investigation to look into this brazen giveaway of choice urban land to the super wealthy?

You know what? The real story on land and property is not Kadamay’s takeover of some of the completed mass housing for the poor and the low-income Filipinos. Of course, it is getting a lot of media space, given the daring and the element of surprise that the Kadamay members employed. But some have raised a valid point. Why has the virtual land grab by the super wealthy of choice urban lands never become a topic of media and the investigative news outlets?

The virtual land grab of the NGC by the nabobs of the real estate industry has come and passed without the media being scandalized by it. Yet, the coverage of the Kadamay’s actions has been non-stop and akin to carpet-bombing.

No one dared to ask this fundamental question: Is government and its various arms and agencies really empowered to change the nature of the NGC’s original mandate and give away these lands to only one class of Filipinos, the super wealthy?

That the nabobs of property development paid fair and just prices for the acquisition of these real estate crown jewels is even doubtful. Many feel that the government not only altered the use of the NCG to allow the lease or sale deals. It even sold or leased these prime pieces of real estate for less than the just market price, or the current terms for leasing prime urban lands.

At the low end of the land pricing scheme, every square meter of the property given away at the NGC should have commanded a fair price of P75,000 per square meter. If you pool the money from the sale or lease, on the premise the deals were aboveboard, that would be enough to build enough mass housing sites to accommodate one-half of the total squatter population of Metro Manila.

But we will never know how much money was raised, for one, because of the mystery and secrecy that have attended the land disposition.

Was there graft of the highest order in the land deals?

The Duterte administration has the moral authority to look into these land deals because it was not a participant. Allies of Mr. Duterte in Congress, instead of being enthralled by soap operas from two women-loving, powerful congressmen from DU30’s own Davao, should push for a congressional inquiry into the giveaway of the real estate crown jewels at the NGC.

They will probably uncover deals most prejudicial to the interest of government, deals worse than the Napoles pork barrel scam.

The bold actions of the Kadamay members should be a take-off point for a larger, broader re-examination of the state’s land and housing policies. It would unravel what we already know. The land policy of government has been this: the giveaway of prime lands to the nabobs of real estate through sale or lease terms that are the equivalent of virtual ownership. Prop up the super wealthy by fattening their property portfolio.

On mass housing for the poor and the homeless, the policy is non-existent. There is infinite demand, but building mass housing sites is at the periphery of government’s priorities.

At the emerging urban areas outside of Metro Manila, the policy is to allow the LGU leaders to run amuck with land conversion orders. Who primarily benefits from this? The same real state nabobs that have gobbled up the choice lands at the NGC. The boxy malls they have been building with a frenzy have been the opiate of the urban areas outside of Metro Manila.

We need empirical studies to know which is growing faster, the mall building frenzy of the real property nabobs or the rise of slum colonies.


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  1. I guess this is the same controversial government land during the time of Mayor Bautista covered in the news by a Star columnist (Beltral i guess) for some time but it did not ripple through in our collective consciousness not until now someone in MT uncovered it more extensively. Relentlessly beat it up for our good Sir.

    • … i guess the part of the issue was raised by Cito Beltran 2 or 3 times in the past in his Star column

  2. Do you know why it is not questioned? It is because the rich has been doing it again and again if you look at our history so we have become desensitized to it and have taken it as a matter of fact. Just look at what happened to Hacienda Luisita or the fertile lands in Mindanao. It is quite common for the rich to do so. The squatters, on the other hand, have occupied places that are not really considered prime land but once the rich want those occupied lands, then the shanties will be demolished. An owner of land whose property was squatted on but is not from the super rich will find it hard to have his land back.

  3. It appears the squatters and the real-estate nabobs (high end squatters) are actually in cahoots or in at least in symbiotic parasitical sort of relationship, one feeding off the other.

    First the squatters invade most choice gov’t land best example the center of Q.C., from the Lung Center to Napocor, NIA Rd, Agham Rd, EDSA from GMA to Trinoma.

    Phase 2, nabobs step in as if doing gov’t a favor building beautiful malls and condos to erase the squatter blight. Wonder who pays for the squatter relocation, the nabobs or the taxpayer?

    Phase 3 Now connect why squatters communities have such powerful political coddlers in the beginning, until such time the partnership is dissolved and the shanties are demolished or razed in fire. After all there’s fat gov’t commission under the table for such sweet deal, won’t need the displaced squatter vote next election.

    Phase 4 Even land of gov’t offices that have legitimacy to choice sites are targeted by the nabobs, that’s why you have issues like demolition of the national seedling center, which almost happened to the Children’s hospital and proposed relocation of the Bilibid, the real reason is because it sits on prime real-estate and the nabobs want it.

    Makes one suspect the squatter syndicates are more organized and connected with the nabobs than we realize.

  4. Excellent investigative piece of journalism, Mr. Ronquillo. Why is it that the super rich continue to get the best pieces of the pie, when there are millions of people living in the most pitiable conditions? Don’t these super rich and the government officials who have assisted them have no conscience. It it time that punitive action be taken against them. President Duterte and his allies in Congress should investigate and take the necessary action to punish any transgressions that may have occurred, and show those oligarchs that they are not above the law.

  5. Amnata Pundit on

    Why is Kadamay house grabbing front page news but land grabbing by these nabobs is not? Because the yellow media like the Inquirer and ABS-CBN, the “leftist” activists and human rights “victims, the Church, the western press, these land grabbing nabobs and all the other yellow do-gooders are all on the same team, get it?

    • Instead of continuing to blame others you should be calling for action by the party that is empowered to do so, namely President Duterte and his allies in Congress.

  6. Lea Hetherington on

    Yes, the government should give away at leas one hectare lands to the poorest of the poor now before the rich will grab them all. My wish for the Philippines is that no more squatters or shanty house everywhere, and I hope that Duterte will make it happen during his term.