Photos by PHILIPPINE COLLEGIAN and TUDLA PRODUCTIONS
Text By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA –Members of the Quezon City Police District violently dispersed hundreds of urban poor protesters inside the National Housing Authority (NHA) along Elliptical Circle in Quezon City today, Nov. 22. Several protesters were injured and a staff of Migrante, Paul Reyes, was arrested as police charged with truncheons and bombarded them with water cannons. Migrante, an organization of migrant workers also support Kadamay’s call to utilize idle houses.
The protesters, led by urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), trooped to the NHA office this morning to demand the distribution of some 114,000 idle government housing units in the country.
In March, Kadamay led the occupation of some 5,000 idle houses in government housing projects in Bulacan province. The successful campaign forced government to face housing problems of the urban poor, and exposed that some 55,000 idle and rotting units meant for police and military personnel have stood unoccupied for years.
The group requested for a dialogue with NHA officials to discuss their concerns, but no official came to face them.
In a statement, the group said before the dispersal they were given a positive sign that a key person would confront them.
Kadamay chairperson Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano said they are ready to have a dialogue to press the agency to act on the homelessness, but they were met with violence.
“We wanted to know why up to now, thousands of housing units are still idle. How did they spend the P112 billion ($2 million) funds for housing,” said Arellano lamenting that homeless Filipinos are increasing.
In October, the House of Representatives and the Senate already approved resolutions authorizing the NHA to award vacant houses to qualified beneficiaries other than the members of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. However, the NHA said that an enabling law is needed to redistribute the houses from the original beneficiaries.
Kadamay asserts that there is no need for a law, as they cited Executive Order 90 issued in 1986, which said that the agency “shall focus its efforts in providing housing assistance to the lowest 30 percent urban income-earners.”
Citing the Commission on Audit 2016 report, the group said there are 114,409 unoccupied houses in the Philippines. Ironically, at least 4.5 million Filipinos are homeless in the Philippines, according to the National Statistics Office 2012 data.
In spite of the dispersal, Kadamay still set up a homeless camp outside the NHA compound, which will last up to Nov. 24 to press the agency to act on the issue of idle housing units.
Updated Nov. 23, 2017