A swift scan of the socio-economic score sheet of the Aquino administration. How do we judge thee? Let us count the ways.
The best way to pass judgment on how an administration is faring halfway into its term is to use its own socio-economic yardstick for human development.
During their election campaign in 2010, the Aquino-Roxas team released a Covenant with the Urban Poor:
o No evictions without decent relocation
o Provide support for area upgrading and in-city resettlement
o Provide basic services that benefit poor communities
o Sufficient housing budget
o Generate substantial number of jobs
Are they living up to their promise?
In 2011, President Aquino announced that his government would allot P50 billion for the relocation of the urban poor. This is the Informal Settler Fund. From 2011 to 2016, P10 billion ($232 million) is to be added to the fund of the National Housing Authority to build 1.47 million housing units.
At a cost of P100,000 ($2,300) per housing unit, the entire ISF fund is sufficient to provide shelter for 500,000 urban poor, whom they refer to as informal settlers. The fund would come from the Disbursement Acceleration Program created by the Department of Budget and Management for the President.
Since then, the so-called ISF under the DAP seem to have benefited the rich developers more than they did the poor. During the conference, a resource person reported that a few big developers have cashed in on this program.
One is Phinma, which is owned by Willie Uy, a businessman known to be close to Aquino.
Another is the New San Jose Builders, which is owned by Mr. Gerry Acuzar. Mr. Acuzar, as we all know, is the brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Alcuzar supported the candidacy of President Aquino and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista. NSJB is a primary developer in Montalban and Rodriguez, Rizal Province, where residents from North Triangle in Quezon City were transferred.
“In Kasiglahan relocation sites in Rodriguez, Rizal, thousands of newly-constructed housing units are being built by the NSJB, but are now declared condemned and inhabitable due to their substandard construction and vulnerability to flooding… Taxpayers are misled into believing that the urban poor are spoon-fed with taxpayers’ money.
But in reality, relocatees are victims of the housing programs of the government, which are being run like a business,” Gloria Arellano, chairperson of Kadamay, said in a letter to the Commission on Audit dated Sept. 27, 2013. (See related story: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/09/28/probe-on-aquinos-p10-billion-housing-fund-urged/#sthash.RWS3BEky.dpuf)
Now that you know where our hard-earned taxes are actually going, read this: Developers, under the Urban Development and Housing Act, are entitled to get 30-percent tax cut if they havesocialized housing projects. On top of that, they would get tax holidays from the by the Board of Investments. If that does not make your blood boil, I don’t know what would!
At present, the NHA has about 19 off-city relocation sites for Metro Manila’s informal settlers located in Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan. Most of these are far from any place of work, with limited or no social services at all (e.g. schools and hospitals), utilities such as water and electricity are usually expensive. But there are also in-city housing relocations sites such as that of Bistekville in Quezon City.
Did the government of Mayor Bistek actually think that the poorest of the poor are earning enough to make them capable of setting aside enough savings for such monthly dues? And considering that the money already came from the peoples’ taxes, shouldn’t we just lend these units to them for free in order to lessen their economic burden?
So that they can buy more food, save for future health needs, send their children to school instead of making them sell garlands deep into the night? And perhaps allow them to visit the park on a weekend every once in a while?
By the way, a strict requisite when applying for a unit in the posh Bisktekville is a water-proof documentation that the “beneficiary” is earning P8,000 ($186.00 per month.
Now tell me where those padyak (pedicab) boys would get such a certification. What a brilliant and compassionate mayor and city council Quezon City has indeed.
It was quite clear what the calls of the urban poor are in that conference, and they can all be found in our 1987 Constitution — adequate housing, decent paying jobs, and accessible social services such as education and health services.
They are also calling on the development of national industries and a true agrarian reform. Development of a textile industry, for example, would translate into the development of cotton plantations, weaving industry, and garments factories.[pq]Land redistribution and adequate post-harvest support would mean less economic burden…[/pq]
…in terms of payment to landlords and rice mill owners.
And so we come to realize that the solutions to our urban poor countrymen’s problems are multi-dimensional, but these are actually doable if we do it one step at a time.
The government’s eternal excuse that there is no money is now unacceptable in the light of the NAPOLES controversy and the DAP. It must fulfill its election promise to the people, and it must stop its practice of repaying their debt of gratitude to their election financiers and relatives using the peoples’ taxes.
The job is not easy, but neither is it impossible. We all have to do join our countrymen in their call for justice so that one day, we may see grandmothers and children enjoying an afternoon in the park instead of begging for coins in the streets.
– Dr. Darby Santiago
Note: The opinion of the author does not reflect the views of Medical Observer Philippines.