TAKEN in by the controversial takeover of a government housing program in Pandi, Bulacan, obviously upon the urging of those who stand as leaders of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), everybody seems to be pro-poor these days, defending their rights to a proper roof over their heads.
But zeroing in on the age-old problem of housing, particularly for the poor, tends to miss the bigger picture that reveals the all-encompassing problem of economic growth benefiting only the top 1 percent of the population. In other words, there is no inclusive growth that—from a slightly different perspective—would allow the wealth of the nation to trickle down, down, down to the poorest of the poor who cannot afford even the minimum monthly amortization of P600 for a government housing project.
Obviously, the takeover in Pandi was a result of the housing problem that, in turn, is an offspring of the larger dilemma of a growing economy that does not benefit in real terms a larger segment of the national demography.
This is not to say that the people must expect the government, or any sitting administration for that matter, to be a miracle worker and solve and resolve socio-political and socio-economic issues overnight to satisfy all the disgruntled members of society, be they rich or poor.
But the government must deal with the situation in Pandi on its own, and the sooner, the better. Because the problem is national in breadth and scope, the solution must be arrived at with great skill and timing.
First, the legal minds of the Duterte administration must determine if the occupation is illegal and beyond the bounds of civil rules and principles. Or is it a criminal act on the part of the leaders of Kadamay, who are hiding in plain view behind the plight of the poor?
If, indeed, the act was illegal and within the scope of anarchy as President Duterte spelled out two weeks ago, the government has every right to do what is necessary and hold the leaders of the group accountable for fomenting anarchy and inciting the people to break the law. They must be jailed and those occupying the houses dealt with accordingly.
Another way would be to take a humanitarian approach. As the intended beneficiaries of the houses—the indigent members of the uniformed services—declined to live in the units for supposedly being of poor quality and devoid of basic services such as water and electricity, it would be an honorable gesture for the administration to award the houses to the people on humanitarian grounds.
However, it must come with certain restrictions, foremost of which would be a seven-year holding provision that keeps the beneficiaries from selling or pawning the house and lot within the holding period. Such a grim scenario is not far-fetched as what has been happening in the case of the beneficiaries of conditional cash transfer grants or Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) who pawn their 4Ps cash cards to the dismay of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The bigger picture of inclusive growth can wait, even if the victims of such systemic anomaly, the majority of Filipinos, cannot, as no one, not even the President and his economic managers, can compel the hundreds of billions of pesos that go into the pockets of the elite few year in and year out, to trickle down to the poorest of the poor.
Everybody wants to have a house—who wouldn’t?—but making it happen must be borne out of hard work and honest means, not by sheer collective force under the guise of constitutional rights.