“The government turning its back on its people and letting greedy corporations take advantage of the interests and wealth of our country by giving them the government’s money for housing is a clear form of corruption.” – Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)
By IGAL JADA SAN ANDRES
MANILA — National Housing Authority employees’ union Consolidated Union of Employees (CUE-NHA) and Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) members protested against House Bill 384, a bill that proposes the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD), in front of the House of Representatives last June 4, Monday.
The creation of such a department will result in the privatization of housing, said Erwin Lanuza, president of the Quezon City Hall Employees Association, an affiliate of COURAGE.
“We all know that the prospect or the scheme of privatization will jeopardize the interests of the urban poor,” he said. “Because if we let the private sector handle housing programs, we all know that they will be motivated by the desire to earn more in their every business venture. So, therefore, this will result in higher costs of housing.”
He also added that privatization, according to the country’s history, did not do anything to uplift poverty. Rather, it intensified it.
“For example, when NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) was privatized, they said the service would be more efficient. But what happened? The costs of electricity increased.”
The same can be said for the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) when it was privatized, Lanuza added. These privatization schemes were made effective with the passage of the Water Crisis Act and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
“Clearly, if the government advances these kinds of bills, the interests of the people will be damaged heavily,” he said. “So why do our lawmakers continue to advocate these? Is it because they will profit from it? From lobbying for these huge concessionaires?”
It is also clear, he said, that when HB 384 is passed, the housing projects that should supposedly be shouldered by the government will be turned into profit-making businesses.
“This is really against the people’s concept of what the righteous path is. Isn’t the privatization of government services a form of corruption?” Lanuza asked. “The government turning its back on its people and letting greedy corporations take advantage of the interests and wealth of our country by giving them the government’s money for housing is a clear form of corruption.”
Additionally, the proposed department also seeks to merge all existing key shelter agencies (KSA) such as the NHA, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), and National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation.
“When these different agencies are merged, a provision of the DHUD states that there will be many workers who will lose their jobs in order to avoid what they call the duplication of function,” Lanuza said. “They will be emerged under one department, the DHUD. So, clearly, this will result in the displacement of many employees.”
Although the creation of the DHUD also promises retirement packages for the displaced employees, Lanuza added that no guarantee could be given because the DHUD does not have its own source of funds. Instead, its funds will be taken from the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), and Mutual Fund Development Corporation (PAG-IBIG Fund), entities where both private and public workers invest a part of their earnings for future use.
He said many government employees themselves live in slum areas because they could not afford quality housing.
“Even government employees need affordable housing. They don’t have the ability to avail of housing projects that private developers offer because those are expensive. Then the money they worked hard for and contributed to Pag-Ibig and GSIS will be used?”
Government turning its back
“The national government will renege on its primary responsibility, which is indicated in the Constitution of the Philippines, that it will provide for the basic needs of its citizens,” Rosalinda Nartates, president of CUE-NHA, said.
The passage of the bill will devolve the responsibility of providing housing to the local government units, in addition to private developers.
“In our experience, the devolution of functions to the local government proved to be unsuccessful since the passage of the Local Government Code,” she said. “This is because there are many local governments that do not have the financial capacity to support the programs that will provide basic necessities to its citizens.”
HB 384 was presented in the House of Representatives last June 4, Monday, for the second reading. This is also its state in the Senate.
“For the very first time in all the past Congresses, this is the only time that the Senate and the [House of Representatives] are on the same level of approval,” she said. “The bills look the same on both sides. This means that during the third reading and final approval, they won’t have to debate on a lot of things; they will only have to vote. That is a sign that the administration wants to end this quickly.”
The bill is among the 12 priority bills submitted by Pres. Benigno Aquino III to the Legislative-Executive Department Advisory Council (LEDAC) last February.
Nartates also questioned why the Aquino administration would speed up the process of passing a bill legislated by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now a congresswoman for the 2nd district of Pampanga.
“Why are they one in thinking that the solution for the housing problem is the creation of a Department of Housing?” she asked. “President Aquino said in his first speech that he will punish the former administration for its corruption. Where is the punishment when they seem to agree in these things? Where is the punishment for the former administration on the issue of corruption?”
“Wow, GMA has a bill and Aquino is speeding up the process,” Nartates added. “What could be their hidden agreement about this?”
Lanuza shared the same sentiment.
“We believe that President Aquino really has a strong desire to successfully pass the DHUD now,” he said. “Because in the coming SONA (State of the Nation Address), we can’t see anything significant or good accomplishment that he can boast about. He also can’t boast that the recent impeachment was a success against corruption in the government, because we must keep in mind that there are bigger crocodiles with larger scales of corruption in other government agencies, in Congress, and in the legislative and judiciary.”
He also added that they will continue to fight against the DHUD for as long as it takes. “We are ready, and we will face this fight between the bourgeois class represented by the government and the citizens who have been longing for change and respite in their lives.”