By Ben R. Rosario and Charissa M. Luci
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez yesterday called for a congressional inquiry into the takeover of government housing units in Bulacan by at least 1,000 homeless families, saying that the series of incidents underscores the need for government to treat the worsening housing crisis with utmost urgency.
Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, filed House Resolution No. 875 directing the appropriate House committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the takeover of units in several housing government housing projects in Pandi and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.
At least 5,000 urban poor individuals are reportedly occupying housing units located at San Jose Heights, Villa Elise, Pandi Residences 3 , Pandi Village 2 and Padre Pio since Wednesday’s takeover, police have reported.
Benitez, a fierce advocate of the in-city housing program for the urban poor, said the urban poor families belong to the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).
The National Housing Authority has reported that there are at least 4,000 socialized housing units in the areas invaded by the urban poor settlers.
Benitez said leaders of Kadamay and other urban poor groups, together with officials of NHA and other government housing agencies, should be called to the hearing to shed light into the incident.
“The said takeover of the housing units should be an opportunity for Congress to look into the current resettlement programs of the government as it is incumbent upon the Philippine Congress to oversee the implementation of laws in order to identify possible and necessary programs and policy interventions that will lead towards the realization of the original objectives of the enacted policies,” the senior administration lawmaker explained.
In deciding to take over the vacant housing units, Kadamay declared that the said move was to highlight the urban poors’ clamor to address the right of the indigents to free mass housing and also to protest the continuous neglect of the poor for mass housing in pursuit of a profit-oriented roadmap that favors the business sector, disclosed Benitez.
He noted that Republic Act No. 7279 indeed directs government to undertake a national housing program that “shall ensure the provision of decent shelter to the underprivileged and homeless citizens.”
“The urban poor action emphasizes the urgency and necessity for government to address the housing problem. We, in Congress, are ready to provide the legislative support needed to reach this objective,” Benitez stated.
Kadamay insisted that housing is an inalienable right but it has been treated like a business for far too long by housing agencies, like the NHA.
National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chief Liza Maza visited the occupied areas last Friday and expressed her support for the occupation.
Kadamay demanded President Dutrete to respond to the demands of the urban poor families, noting that they were forced to occupy houses in Pandi, Bulacan, since they have nowhere else to go to. (With a report from Chito A. Chavez)