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Housing is more than just structures

President Duterte’s decision to let the homeless Kadamay folk keep the vacant housing units they had taken over in Pandi, Bulacan, averted a clash that would have been embarrassing to the government. The Kadamay people appeared ready to make a stand to keep the houses which, they pointed out, had been vacant anyway and unused for years.

The government would have been well within its rights to throw them out, for what they did was truly anarchy. But good government is not just upholding the law. It is also looking after the poorer people of the country, those who have so much less in life. For, as former President Ramon Magsaysay once said, those who have less in life should have more in law.

But the Kadamay takeover needs to be straightened out. It must be legitimized, with each family assigned a specific unit to look after. The Kadamay leaders may have succeeded in this one instance to take over vacant houses, but they must be warned that any further anarchic action on their part will not be tolerated. Then the government must look into the program that has been undertaken by the National Housing Authority all these years, see where it needs to be amended and corrected.

Sen. JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement, noted that of 2,300 units built by the NHA, only 300 have occupants. It seems the families who were supposed to occupy the units refused to move in. Were the units of substandard construction? Did they not have such facilities as water and electricity? Were the housing units too far from where the assigned families had work, health facilities, and schools for their children?

“By now I believe we are convinced that government housing projects are no longer about structures,” Senator Ejercito observed. “They should also cover a comprehensive and strategic plan in addressing other basic needs of beneficiaries, such as access to livelihood, transportation, education, and health facilities.”

The Senate will look into this matter when it begins its inquiry on April 17 into what happened in Pandi, Bulacan.

The Kadamay takeover, illegal as it was, should open the government’s eyes to inadequacies and failures of the present national housing program, so that succeeding efforts to cut down the huge housing backlog will be more realistic, more understanding of the needs of beneficiaries, and more inclusive to also benefit those who are now outside the present program.