Press Release
February 5, 2018


Good day to everyone!

Unang-una sa lahat, binabati ko po ang mga representateng dumalo sa pagdinig na ito ng Committee On Urban Planning, Housing And Resettlement, lalong-lalo na ang mga community leaders ng Northville and Southville Resettlement sites, na nandirito ngayon hindi lamang bilang katawan ng kanilang mga sari-sariling komunindad, pero bilang kinatawan na rin ng lahat ng mga "beneficiaries" ng mga proyektong pabahay ng gobyerno.

Last year, isa sa mga binantayan ko noong budget season ay ang budget interpellations para sa NHA. Based on those observations, I even had occasion to state for the record my support for the mandate of the NHA, subject to some points for the agency, in particular, and the government, in general, to consider. I would want to recall some of those points to try to explain what I hope this Committee will consider as it conducts this hearing.

Pero bago iyon, I would like to thank our committee chair, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito for scheduling this hearing to tackle the resolution I authored and filed last October 25, 2017, Proposed Senate Resolution No. 535, na naghahangad na mabigyang linaw at solusyon ang problema sa pabahay, hindi lamang ng mga taga-Northville at Southvill relocation sites, pero pati na rin lahat ng mga "beneficiaries" na hindi nakakamit ang buo at toong benepisyo ng mga proyekto ng gobyero.

I would have wanted to be here in person to participate in these proceedings, but circumstances beyond my control has not made that possible. So I thank Senator JV for allowing me to have this statement read.

Noong nakaraang budget season, hindi man ako nakaboto, nagpahayag pa rin ako ng aking mga obserbasyon. Isa sa mga iyon ay ang nararapat na pagpapahalaga sa mga social welfare projects, kasama na ang socialized housing projects ng NHA. Unang-una, ipinahayag ko ang pagtutol ko sa pagbawas sa budget na ilalaan sa NHA. Sa pagkakaintindi ko, isa sa mga dahilan ay ang tinatawag na "absorptive capacity" ng NHA sa pagpapatupad ng mga proyektong pabahay. Although I agree that we shouldn't give an agency more money than it has the capacity to spend, in the case of housing, I don't think doing less is the answer, especially if beneficiaries who have already been awarded housing units are currently under the threat of eviction and, thus, of becoming homelessness again because they still have to live with the same economic realities that rendered them homeless in the first place.

There is something fundamentally wrong when we address the symptom, homelessness, but without simultaneously treating the underlying conditions that makes homelessness a vicious cycle for some, e.g., lack of viable employment opportunities, livelihood and humane living conditions for our people.

Sa aking palagay, dapat ring pinaglalaanan ng gobyerno ang buhay at kabuhayan ng mga "beneficiaries", para naman matulungan silang makarating sa estado ng pamumuhay na kakayanin nilang mabayaran ang kanilang mga obligasyon, at hindi na sila muling mawawalan ng tirahan.

It is my submission, that our government, through the agencies led by the NHA, is not merely in the business of building houses, but more importantly, it is in the business of nation-building. Thus, the work is not done by simply placing our citizens inside physical structures, i.e., houses, but by providing them the opportunity to start and make a home and, ultimately, a life. In the process, we are not just giving our people shelter, we are helping them become productive and engaged members of our communities.

It is also this same thinking that first put me on notice when I received reports concerning the living conditions in the Northville and Southville Resettlement Sites. It was reported to me that many of the relocated families, especially those who were moved to far-flung areas, do not have access to basic services such as health, education and livelihood or employment opportunities thus affecting their standard of living and particularly their capacity to pay their housing loan amortization.

It was also relayed to me that many of the residents are in danger of being evicted. NHA issued its Memorandum Circular 2506 which aims to remove "illegal occupants" from NHA housing units. In the same circular, "illegal occupants" are defined as those whose contracts were cancelled due to arrearages of more than three (3) months and those with contracts that matured/expired but have not fully settled their obligations.

The residents claim that they were not given a copy of the contracts and were not fully apprised of their contractual obligations. If true, it would be the height of injustice that they be evicted for failing to comply with their contractual obligations which was not, in fact, fully disclosed to them.

So far, I have been using the word "beneficiaries" loosely. Ang mga pamilyang ito marahil ay mga "beneficiaries" lamang sa papel at hindi sa katotohanan, dahil parang hindi naman nila totoo at lubos na nararamdaman ang tunay na banepisyo ng mga programa n gating gobyerno.

That, to me, is a huge problem, not just for the affected families themselves, or to the government agencies involved, but to every single taxpayer, to the national economy and, essentially, to the whole country. We are spending money, but using it so poorly that we always end up at square one, if not worse.

It is, thus, my hope that through this hearing, we will be able to address, first, the following factual issues:

1. What are the actual living conditions in the resettlement sites;

2. Whether there are mechanisms to ensure that the living conditions are maintained to proper standards; and

3. Whether the contractual obligations are properly relayed to the residents.

And, second, the following policy issues:

1. Whether there is a need to establish a process to allow the willing residents to comply with their contractual obligations to prevent them from being evicted and in a manner that takes into consideration their economic and social conditions; and

2. Whether a more comprehensive reform is necessary.

Lastly, Section 2 of R.A. No. 7279, of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 provides that "basic services and employment opportunities", among others, are part and parcel of the policy of the state to undertake a comprehensive and continuing Urban Development and Housing Program.

My concern is that the way we approach these goals are on a piece-meal or myopic basis, with agencies concentrating on one aspect, yet neglecting the rest. Such becomes not only unproductive, but also counter-productive.

If I may, I would like to end by asking these questions for the committee to ponder:

  • Anong kabutihan ang maidudulot sa pagpapalayas sa mga pamilyang ito? Mababawasan ba ang kahirapan? Mababawasan ba ang problema ng gobyerno? Uunlad ba ang ating ekonomiya? Hindi ba't pag pinalayas natin sila ay babalik lang tayo sa dati nating problema?

  • Sa kabilang banda, anong buti ang maidudulot kung susubukan muna natin na tulungan silang makaangat sa buhay?

  • Ang pagpapalayas ba ang tama o natatanging solusyon?

Again, I thank our good chair, Sen. Ejercito, and I hope that this hearing can bring about a positive resolution that would be acceptable to everyone concerned.

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