‘Occupation of Bulacan housing units justified’

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President Duterte may not totally agree with urban-poor group Kadamay’s action to occupy idle housing units in Pandi, Bulacan, but the group’s militant assertion has found support—as well as research backing—in a think tank and a lawyers’ union.

In an e-mail sent to the BusinessMirror, nonprofit research institution Ibon Foundation said there was a huge housing gap of 800,000 units per year from 2010 to 2016, or 5.8 million units over the six-year span. “This provides enormous profit potential for private developers,” Ibon declared.

According to the group, the socialized-housing program of the government, implemented through public-private partnerships, is still unaffordable for most of the informal settlers. “For instance, though no down payment is required, Bistekville units [in Quezon City] still cost a minimum of P2,273.84 a month for a 30-year payment schedule.”

The think tank argued most informal settlers, like those involved in the Bulacan occupation, do not have access even to the Home Development Mutual Fund for housing loans. This makes it difficult for them to afford the so-called low-cost housing units provided by the government.

Ibon believes the mass-housing projects, aside from offering profit-making opportunities for private developers, are actually being used to evict the urban poor from their communities. “Informal settlements are being cleared to give way to these projects without the assurance that the original occupants will have access to the supposed onsite relocation given the prohibitive amortization costs.”

Among the major players in the provision of mass-housing units is Ayala Land Inc., which already built 7,276 low-cost housing units in 2012. Another is Phinma Property Holdings Corp., which is behind the Bistekville project, an onsite relocation for informal settlers, of Quezon City Mayor Herbert M. Bautista.

‘Occupation is legal and justifiable’

On the other hand, lawyers’ group National Union of  Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) insisted there’s enough constitutional basis for Kadamay to occupy housing units in Pandi, Bulacan, and urged the National Housing Authority to recognize that.

In a statement released last Saturday, the NUPL said the right to livelihood and shelter is an important component of the right to life. “The right to adequate housing is universally recognized as part of the right to adequate standard of living under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” the group argued.

NUPL cited the case Government of the Republic of South Africa and Other v. Grootboom and Other, in which the Constitutional Court of South Africa declared that a state should not deprive anyone of his or her right of access to adequate housing. It added this right is only achieved if all the following conditions are met: there must be land, there must be services, and there must be a dwelling.

There’s no need to look outside, NUPL said, as the Constitution provides for this right already. Citing Article XIII, Sections 9 and 10 of the basic law of the land, the group asserted the state is duty-bound to make available affordable and decent housing units to the underprivileged and homeless citizens of the country.

The occupation of Kadamay stems from this constitutional provision, which the government has not only failed to implement, but also violated for years, NUPL concluded. “Within this context, the people, especially those who need them most, are entitled to demand and assert such rights,” the group maintained.

“While the government allows the demolition of urban-poor communities, it has failed to provide decent housing for the dislocated families, [in spite of] billions of taxpayers’ money spent on housing,” NUPL complained. It labeled the Bulacan housing project “misdirected and poured for policemen [and military personnel]” who do not urgently need it, as evidenced by the units being unoccupied for some time now.