The urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, or Kadamay, has issued a statement reacting to news reports that said they found the housing units they had occupied to be too small, fit only for senators’ dogs. They were also said to complain about the lack of water and electricity in the units.
The housing units, built by the National Housing Authority in Pandi, Bulacan, had been allotted for cops and soldiers but had remained unoccupied.
In early March, more than 1,000 Kadamay members swept into the housing units and occupied them, claiming they had been forced to do so by the sheer inability of the government to provide shelter for the poor.
After initially castigating Kadamay members for what they had done, the still-popular President Rodrigo Duterte later on relented, telling them that it was all right to stay in the units so long as they did not oust uniformed personnel already living there.
And then came the reported remarks on how small the units, how inadequate the facilities were.
We commiserate with the urban poor and share their wish that the government would do more to help them.
Help, however, should come in the form of stable job opportunities that will enable them to help themselves put food on the table, send their children to school and give themselves shelter, water, electricity and other comforts.
The direct quote, which does not lie, did capture the Kadamay leader likening the houses to those fit for lawmakers’ pets. Even if the pets turned out to be birds, however, the size of the units is never the issue—it is the fact that they occupied something that is not theirs, and seemed to have gotten away with doing so just because they cry injustice.
That the government has been remiss in its duty to provide adequate employment is lamentable but still not an excuse for Kadamay to entertain the thought that what its members did was right, or at the very least, legal. Seizing the houses was bad enough; complaining about the units added ignominy to the act.
Imagine the message it sends to those from the middle class who toil day and night, endure horrid traffic and public transport conditions, pay taxes whose effects they most often do not feel, and still find elusive the likelihood of getting their own home even after decades of painstaking work.
It’s an affliction of politicians—to promise the masses relief from poverty, to tell them that government will take care of everything, and to be stumped when they are held accountable for their empty promises. They breed not humble people willing to find jobs and work hard, but arrogant ones, aware of their electoral indispensability, entitled to all that was promised them, and oblivious to notions of right and wrong.