By Tonyo Cruz
How many have reacted to Kadamay’s #OccupyPabahay campaign is a showcase of the myths and fables we tell ourselves.
Let’s check them out:
Myth: Like the urban poor, Kadamay members are self-entitled moochers who demand more than they deserve.
Not true – because the Constitution mandates public mass housing for the urban poor. Kadamay is merely laying claim to that mandate.
Fable: Kadamay’s actions ruined the “queue” of “legitimate” applicants for public mass housing.
Not true. In fact, thanks to Kadamay, the government is now obliged to check the status of all public housing – whether they are as empty, rotting and incomplete as the Pandi “houses.”
Myth: Kadamay is unfair to taxpayers who pay 32 percent of their income.
Not true. It is the government that sets the income tax rate and (mis)spends taxes. Kadamay’s constituency – the urban poor – is supposed to be a beneficiary of taxpayer-funded public housing.
Fable: These poor don’t pay taxes.
Not true. The poor in fact pays taxes like VAT and local levies, and the taxes they pay comprise a larger portion of their meager incomes. Those proven to be tax evaders are Big Business and Big Landlords.
Myth: No free lunch.
Not true. Government grants tax breaks to Big Multinational Corporations and sets up tax havens in export-processing zones. Many of the old rich families began as land grabbers. Lest we forget, decades of plunder by the elites in power gave them the means that supposedly gives them the basis to lecture us about “hard work.”
Fable: “Magbanat kasi sila ng buto.”
Not true. The urban and rural poor are the most hardworking people in the country but they get paltry amounts in return. The minimum wage could be as low as P200/day, if businesses obey the law at all. And there’s contractualization and Endo. Exactly how would they buy a house under those circumstances.
Myth: It is not the government’s job to provide shelter.
Not true. Check your Constitution.
Fable: Kadamay might take over your house!
Not true. Kadamay has only eyed the takeover of empty, unoccupied and rotting public housing.
Myth: Kadamay wants to be rich in an instant!
Not true: They want a fair chance and a fair shake which the Constitution promises them as a measure of social justice. (For the believers: Think “preferential option for the poor”.)
Fable: Kadamay wants free water and free electricity. Sobra na sila.
Not true. The poor is entitled to all appropriate social safety nets and protections to help them rise from poverty. The rural poor for example should by right and by circumstance get free water for irrigation. (Note: We pay for Meralco’s corporate electricity usage in all its offices, and water loss by Maynilad/Manila Water – which they could afford to pay.)
Myth: The urban poor and Kadamay are law breakers!
Not true. Many laws keep them poor, homeless and destitute: Regional minimum wage law, contractualization law, orders for eviction and demolition, the sham land reform laws (CARP and CARPER) and more. The “lawful” housing policies deprive them of access to public housing. “Decent” officials of government approve mass housing contracts with private real estate firms that are located far from job centers or result in substandard and crappy housing.
There are many other myths and fables about Kadamay and the poor. Also, insults and devastating takedowns.
They are all aimed to paint the poor and Kadamay as “different” and “the other.” They hope to drive the biggest wedge between the poor and the middle class.
In the grand design of the upper classes which profit from the perpetual mess we are in, such disunity is important to keep the system. They give false hopes to the middle class that they have a future under the system. And the middle class intellectuals deceive themselves that they are part of the ruling classes. Ergo, their bitter slander against the militant poor who shake up the system.
The poor and the middle class are joined at the hip, to be honest. The middle class folks rose from the ranks of the poor, and they can’t begin to imagine the how high the bar has become to escape destitution. They dread the real prospect of sliding down to poverty. The poor look up to middle class. They aspire to rise from poverty and join the middle class.
The poor, especially the workers and farmers, have nothing to lose. They are objectively the classes most interested and most committed to profound social, economic, political, and cultural changes. Unless and until the middle class wakes up from their daydreams to realize this, they would serve as witting or unwitting apologists of the filthy system.
Take the issue of mass transport. This is a cause of the poor who want the most affordable means to go to school or work or to go job hunting. They want this improved, modernized and expanded. The wealthy folk who have multiple cars and drivers have no direct stake in mass transport – except maybe in doing another MRT under even worse terms.
The middle class and the poor have a stake in the radical reform of the public housing policies. Free shelter for the poor would bring sense to skyrocketing rent and prices that siphon off their hard-earned money. Kadamay should inspire the middle class to unite and demand adequate protections for them like rent control, checks on bank loan policies, improved standards for condos and houses, and better procedures and rates for obtaining PAGIBIG loans. Making sure that the poor have electricity and water should also propel the middle class to fight the illegal resale of water and power by condo and subdivision developers.
Yes, the biggest myth is that the middle class can do social change alone or with the ruling class, and the worst fable is that the poor are enemies of change.
The moment we reject these myths and fables is precisely the moment we achieve the national democratic unity needed to achieve the progressive and positive changes most of us want and need.
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