PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III’s close allies in Congress have demanded that the Palace account for the anomalous P18.6-billion housing projects as they condemned the “hellish, inhumane, and uninhabitable” shelters for military soldiers and policemen.
Magdalo Reps. Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo, close allies of the President, protested the “squatter treatment” accorded the men in uniform.
Alejano said the soldiers and policemen defied the order to occupy the multibillion-worth of hellish units even if the National Housing Authority threatened to revoke the awarded housing units if they continued to refuse to occupy the shelters.
“The multibillion, substandard housing units do not have access to social services, transportation, resulting in a burdensome life and a hellish residential environment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police personnel and their families,” Alejano said.
“But the soldiers and cops are being forced to occupy the multibillion substandard units or the awarded units would be revoked. Is that how you treat the soldiers and cops who risk their lives for all of us?” Alejano said.
In an interview with The Standard, Alejano said the Magdalo lawmakers did ocular inspections and found that substandard design and construction of the units were the same in Baras, Rizal; Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; Zamboanga; Bacolod; and Bulacan, with each province supposed to house 10,000 units.
He cited the case in Rizal where there were 2,000 units constructed but only 180 turned up to accept and occupy the units. There were 140 from the military and 40 from the PNP.
The same low occupancy rate was noted in other provinces, Alejano said.
“The communities where our military soldiers and policemen are being relocated did not have access to transportation, public markets, schools, hospitals and churches,” Alejano lamented. “The areas are so isolated, the families felt they were not secure.”
“The reason for the very low occupancy rate at less than 10 percent is because the units are not livable. It is hellish to live there. The government would only make their lives miserable and our soldiers and policemen would not be able to carry out their jobs if they would worry about the families they leave behind. There is no drainage, no water, no power, not even a playground for children,” Alejano said.
“While the men and women in uniform were deployed to areas risking their lives fighting for all of us, their wives and husbands are left behind queuing to fetch water,” Alejano said.
“The substandard AFP and PNP housing units bastardized the sacrifices rendered by our gallant soldiers and policemen,” Alejano said.
Alejano said the P18.6-billion project was started in 2012 by the NHA that was placed under the Office of the President.
“The NHA is mandated to implement the AFP-PNP Housing program, a flagship program of President Aquino that seeks to provide permanent housing and security of tenure to low-salaried military and police whose need for housing must be addressed immediately,” Alejano said.
He said some 120,000 soldiers from the AFP and 150,000 from the PNP were supposed to be the target recipients of the housing projects.
“Of the 67,000 units constructed and completed in phases one and two of the four phases, less than 6,700 soldiers and police opted to occupy the houses because of the hellish residential environment. All the rest are vacant and fast deteriorating. Some P18.6 billion in public funds all going to waste,” Alejano told The Standard.
“The foundation and walls [of the housing units] were not completely filled in with cement, the septic tank easily unearthed because of the thinness of the concrete cover and other pertinent issues related to poor construction,” according to Alejano.
“The men and women of AFP and PNP deserve better housing conditions given their commitment, dedication and loyalty to protect and defend the Filipino people from harm,” according to Acedillo.
The lawmaker-allies filed House Resolution 2466 urging Congress to investigate the National Housing Authority as to where it brought the P18.6-billion budget for Aquino’s housing flagship program.
They said they were incensed but were not surprised to find that only less than 10 percent of the 67,000 soldiers and policemen who were awarded the housing units chose to occupy the uninhabitable and substandard houses.
Alejano described the housing units as “bahay kalapati,” or pigeon coops, where there is no proper ventilation and elbow room to move around the house.
He said there was a provision for an attic but that the loft was too low the occupant had to bow low to get to move around the attic. The unit has a floor area of only 22 square meters and is made of light materials.
“Worse, the units are not equipped with water and power amenities,” Alejano lamented.
“As guardians of peace and protectors of democracy, the provision of decent housing is a small price to pay for the freedom we currently enjoy,” Acedillo said.
Alejano said the 22-sq. m. substandard units are being paid for by the soldiers and police for P150,000 to P200,000 at P150 to P200 in monthly amortization, payable over 30 years.
Alejano said the NHA has failed to consult the end-users considering that the soldiers and policemen can easily afford even five units with monthly amortization of P1,000.
“The NHA obviously failed to consult our soldiers and policemen being the end-users because they were being treated like informal settlers who needed subsidy and preferably be provided with free housing. But these men and women in uniform are salaried state enforcers who deserve to be treated with respect and provided with decent housing that they can easily afford,” Alejano said.
The AFP top brass informed the Magdalo lawmakers that the transfer to the completed units was hampered by the soldiers still assigned to the field and have yet to find time to relocate their families.
The soldiers, the AFP leadership said, also needed some money to improve on their units particularly in making sure the provisions for power and water were fixed.
Alejano demanded that the NHA identify the developers that constructed the multibillion substandard housing units.
Alejano said they have raised their concerns with the NHA in October but that the agency has yet to give proper answers to their queries.