Members and leaders of an urban poor group on Friday said they will not vacate idle homes that they occupied on March 8 until the government distributes to them for free the houses built by the National Housing Authority (NHA) during the past administration.
Earlier in the day, tension rose after militants from the group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) tried but failed to barge into the NHA central office in Quezon City.
Kadamay and three other organizations supporting its supposed right to call the housing units in Bulacan province, north of Manila, as their own–Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis–branded President Rodrigo Duterte as “King of Talk” for his “failure” to commit to his election campaign promise that he will give priority to urban poor Filipinos “who are in need of homes.”
The four groups challenged the NHA to “face them to cancel the eviction notices served” to the occupied units in the town of Pandi, Bulacan.
In an interview, Kadamay Chairman Bea Arellano noted in Filipino that March 24 marks the anniversary of Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, which her group “strongly condemns” because it “seeks to demolish all the urban poor Filipinos in the city.”
“[We] will not leave those occupied housing units. This is [our]last chance… to have proper homes,” she said.
Even if maximum force was used to evict them, according to Arellano, they would not budge but instead continue to fight for their rights because the houses in Pandi were built with taxpayers’ money.
“We all know that these housing units came from our fellow Filipinos, not from the NHA, not from anyone else. [These houses] should be distributed most especially to the poor community,” she said.
Kadamay Secretary General Carlito Badion agreed.
“Let [us]stay in those housing units… which were funded by the people, not by the government, so let the occupants stay there,” he said.
On March 8, throngs of Kadamay members and leaders occupied the empty housing units built for retired police and soldiers.
Eviction notices had been served by the NHA but the notices were torn down by the group, saying they will not leave.
At the NHA protest, officers and men of the Quezon City Police District put up a barricade to prevent the protesters from entering the premises of the agency.
Younger members of the group vandalized the walls of NHA office and destroyed the agency’s logo.
According to Arellano, they will bring “the fight” to the streets of Manila, particularly to Mendiola “so that Malacañang will be able to listen to their cries.”
Mendiola Street, historically a protest site, is a stone’s throw away from Malacañang, the seat of power in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo also on Friday described as “self-righteous” those who criticized her department’s distribution of food packs to Kadamay members and leaders.
She said the DSWD’s mandate is to “serve the urban poor” without discrimination.