By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Some 200 “pro-government forces” ransacked urban poor group Kadamay’s office in Atlantica, a government housing program in Pandi, Bulacan last Sept. 9.
The group, Pagkakaisa Mamamayan Tungo sa Kaayusan, which describes itself as “pro-Duterte” and “anti-Kadamay,” burned down Kadamay’s flag and hundreds of copies of newspaper Pinoy Weekly and stole a masterlist of all Kadamay members in the area, and office belongings such as two electric fans, a television set and two LPG tanks. The group was accompanied by elements of the Philippines Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion and Philippine National Police-Pandi.
The incident is just among the series of threats and harassment against occupants of the government housing program in Pandi, Bulacan. “Pro-government forces” backed up by military have long been attempting to break their ranks, a local leader said.
“They have long been trying to divide our ranks and our unity in our struggle. They (pro-government forces) have been convincing our members to leave Kadamay,” Minda Lomeda, Kadamay – Pandi vice president, told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
Since Sept. 4, soldiers have been deployed in their community, harassing Kadamay leaders. At least two local leaders Pat Tupaz and Obet Lunzaga received death threats.
Militarization of Pandi housing
In an earlier statement, Kadamay’s national office questioned why Pagkakaisa Mamamayan Tungo sa Kaayusan is handing out certification forms bearing the name the National Housing Authority.
Kadamay National Chairperson Gloria Arellano said, “Why are they acting as if they have the right to give away houses? Were they given that authority because they are backed by the military? Why are they offering these certificates to Kadamay members when their entry passes are supposedly being processed now by the National Housing Authority?” said Arellano.
This group, she added, has been red-tagging Kadamay and has even fired warning shots in the past.
Last elections, two youth leaders from Pandi, Bulacan were forcibly disappeared and surfaced charged with trumped-up cases. Recently, both were reported to have been denied access to their doctor after they complained of chronic fever possibly due to the poor conditions inside a detention facility in Bulacan.
Read: Bulacan jail bars doc of 2 political prisoners
Arellano said the militarization of the Pandi housing shows how government policies such as the Executive Order 70 and Oplan Kapantagan “ruthlessly targets Kadamay since it is a vocal critic of the Duterte administration.”
Urban poor struggle
Two years ago, Kadamay led the occupation of idle government housing units in Pandi, Bulacan.
Read: Kadamay: Futile dialogues with gov’t led to #OccupyBulacan
They were eventually allowed by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, with a stern warning to have them arrested, or shot should they resist, if they do it again.
Despite the vilification against Kadamay, it continued to push for lobbying before the National Housing Authority for the distribution of the housing units they are occupying and the provision of electricity and water supply.
Lomeda said they have been working on providing a sewing livelihood program for residents. However, the expensive electricity supply in their community proves to be challenging, with residents getting their supply under a “sub-meter” arrangement, where they pay a more expensive rate.
They have also been monitoring prices of drinking water being sold in the area, ensuring that local businesses will not take advantage of their dire living conditions.
Irony of it all
Recently, Lomeda said that these “pro-government forces” have been leading the occupation of still empty government housing programs and attribute these initiatives to Kadamay.
In a separate statement, Arellano said that the mere fact that Duterte’s supporters themselves are occupying empty government housing units exposes how grave the problems are.
But instead of squarely addressing the housing problems, Arellano said that Duterte has been paying more attention on attacking Kadamay. She asked: “Did Duterte do something to resolve the problem of homelessness? Has our housing backlog decreased?”