FEATURE

Pandi 3 informal settlers fear Kadamay

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EMETERIO SD. PEREZ

IF the government appears helpless against a thousand, or maybe even less, members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, it is because it tolerates the anarchy that the group has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate against the legitimate residents of housing projects undertaken by the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Pandi and other towns in Bulacan.

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Has the NHA been frightened into submission by Kadamay, the acronym adopted by the group? If not, why did it allow these invaders to lord it over the community of relocated informal settlers who call Pandi 3 their new home?

I took a three-hour trip last week to NHA’s Pandi 3 project in Pulang Lupa, one of the 22 barangays of the town, to learn how life was in a resettlement area. I interviewed a family from Navotas whose members said they moved to their new home only last January. They have survived in all that time without electricity and water.

Then the Kadamay came, worsening the misery of being poor. With the arrival of the group, life for the relocatees was never the same again.

“Naririnig po naming gabi-gabi ang mga naglalakad sa kalsada (We could hear them walking on the street),” one woman said. “Ang iingay po nila. (They are very noisy).”

Talk of the town
Even inside the jeep, which serves the Balagtas-Pandi route, the talk among the passengers was mostly about Kadamay’s intrusion into their lives. A woman from Navotas said she brought her family, including her grandfather who is already 83 years old, to Pandi 3. Then the activist group descended on them and disturbed their peace.

The old folks among the passengers referred to the Kadamay as outsiders. They said they were afraid the invaders would take their homes from them. They saw in the Kadamay the irony of the poor evicting the poorest of the poor.

Kadamay’s own homeless rode with their supporters to the NHA houses in rented public utility jeeps plying the Cubao-Fairview line. One of the private cars sported a sign that indicated Pandi was not their only destination. It was their slogan “Occupy Bulacan” that exposed the truth about Kadamay.

This warning sign has been put up at the NHA’s Pandi 3 housing project. The government faces a difficult task of evicting the illegal occupants of a row of houses that Kadamay has illegally allocated to them.

The activist Kadamay members had succeeded in occupying vacant houses which were too few to accommodate a long line of applicants waiting for their applications for resettlement to be processed by the NHA.

Great pretenders?
A follow-up visit showed that strangers had indeed invaded a peaceful community that didn’t want them.

“Lahat kami galing Bocaue. (We all came from Bocaue, a town in Bulacan),” said one such stranger. Asked where in Bocaue, she answered “iba-iba,” and mentioned Bunlo, where, she said, some of them used to live.

Bunlo is a barangay ofBocaue. But a follow-up question about Duhat revealed a pretender. She did not know anything about Duhat which, like Bunlo, is also a Bocaue barangay.

The woman insisted that she and the others were resettled at Pandi 3 but could not say when. She would not say how she and her family ended up at the site. Neither would she commit how much she and the others would be paying to the NHA for the housing units that they now occupy.

The conversation, though brief, brought out the truth. The woman and her companions were Kadamay members who believe the government has the responsibility to provide them with free houses.

Really? The informal settlers from Navotas who now live at Pandi 3 pay a monthly amortization of P200. Some of them were evacuated to the NHA site way back in 2015.

Pandi’s own poor
What the Kadamay leaders do not know is that Pandi also has many poor families to take care of. They should go around the town to see the living conditions in as many of the town’s 22 barangays that they can visit. From their tour of the town’s barangays, they would learn that Pandi does not need invaders from other towns and cities, much less from Metro Manila, to occupy for free the vacant NHA houses, which had already been allocated to more deserving beneficiaries.

According to Pandi 3 residents, the NHA gave them a four-year grace period before paying the amortization. Paying P200 a month may be nothing for the rich and the very rich, but a big dent on the income of former occupants of either government or private property.

The good news for the NHA is that these settlers are willing to pay.

The invaders better think again. Don’t they know that with their presence, the children cannot play anymore on the streets of their village? Apparently, they fear the invaders. Isn’t Kadamay known more for its activism than anything else?

esdperez@gmail.com

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