‘House grabbers to face bazooka’

After allowing members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) to occupy a government housing project in Bulacan, President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday vowed to use high-powered rifles and bazookas to prevent any new illegal occupation by the urban poor group. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines -  After allowing members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) to occupy a government housing project in Bulacan, President Duterte yesterday vowed to use high-powered rifles and bazookas to prevent any new illegal occupation by the urban poor group.

Accusing Kadamay of engaging in “anarchical activities,” he said, “They won’t be able to repeat it next time. I will build houses… and I will have them guarded with five M60 and bazooka. Unang entrada pa lang bitawan mo na (Use them upon first entry).” he said in jest.

Speaking to troopers of the Western Command in Palawan, Duterte reiterated his call for soldiers and policemen to let go of the housing units illegally occupied by Kadamay to avoid violent confrontations.

“I would want to make first the report that your housing units were seized by poor people like us. But those are the guys used by the Left and they are into such anarchical activities and I cannot force them to leave because some of the awardees (of housing units) were policemen and soldiers,” Duterte said.

“I said if this thing continues and the soldiers and policemen stop them, some people may get killed. So I urge you as your President, let’s just give it to them, to the Kadamay. And do not worry because I will build you a better one,” he added.

Duterte said the houses to be provided to soldiers and policemen would have access to electricity and water, utilities that he said are lacking in the houses seized by the urban poor group.

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Kadamay members forcibly occupied close to 6,000 housing units in Bulacan last month as they decried the alleged failure of the government to implement an effective housing program for the poor. Members said they only occupied houses that have remained idle for five years.

Duterte vowed to make sure that Kadamay would not be able to occupy other housing projects.

“Anarchy? Hanggang diyan lang ‘yan sa Bulacan (only up to Bulacan),” Duterte said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV claimed yesterday that Kadamay is a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Speaking at a press conference at the Senate, Trillanes said that his information was from the security sector, which he has not been able to verify yet.

“If this is true then this has security implications because now they have a community to serve as a sanctuary for the communists,” Trillanes said.

He explained that members of the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), who are on the run from the law would now be able to hide within that community in Pandi and the authorities would not be able to go after them.

According to Trillanes, the proximity to Metro Manila of the Pandi community would also be a cause of concern if the reports were true.

Kadamay order faces legal obstacle

Duterte’s directive for Kadamay members to stay put in the government housing units they occupied in Pandi, Bulacan has run into a legal obstacle.

In a radio interview yesterday, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, who chairs the House of Representatives committee on housing and urban development, said he and Duterte’s housing czar Leoncio Evasco Jr. have agreed that the President’s instruction would require congressional approval.

He said he and Evasco believe that officials of the National Housing Authority (NHA) could be liable for “technical malversation” of public funds if they allowed the continued occupation by Kadamay members of the housing units the agency built for soldiers and policemen.

“That is because the 2017 budget law allots funds specifically for the housing needs of members of the military and the police, not for other beneficiaries,” Benitez said.

He added that congressional authorization could come in the form of an amendment to the budget law or a joint resolution of the House and the Senate authorizing the expenditure of housing funds for other homeless families.

He pointed out that the two chambers could do that when they reconvene on May 2 after a six-week Lenten recess.

“I don’t expect any opposition to it. We can rush its approval,” he said.

Early this week, the President allowed Kadamay members to remain in the housing project they forcibly occupied in Pandi, which were intended for soldiers and policemen.

Duterte said he would build larger units for soldiers and policemen elsewhere. He promised that these would be available by December.

Kadamay members and other so-called informal settlers lauded Duterte’s gesture, but at least two senators said it was a recipe for anarchy.

It would embolden squatters to occupy government lands and even private properties, the senators said.

Benitez expressed doubts on whether Duterte’s promise of larger and more comfortable housing units for military and police personnel could be fulfilled by December.

He said the President could include funds for this purpose in the 2018 budget to be submitted to Congress in July or August.

He also called for a review of housing policies, saying housing for soldiers and policemen could be built near their assignments.

“We have to make the necessary amendments to the law, as provided for in the General Appropriations Act. Otherwise, the National Housing Authority may be held liable for technical malversation,” Benitez said, noting the implications of Duterte’s decision.

“We have to rectify the provisions in the GAA so that there will be no technical malversation on the part of the NHA. We need not go through the so-called eye of the needle. Our colleagues know very well that we can do it,” he explained.

Benitez said he and Evasco will be working on the amendments of the provision in light of the fact that funds have already been appropriated for the housing units for members of the Philippine National Police.

“Anyway, our sessions in Congress will resume in May. So we will have to go through the (legislative) process,” he said, saying the beneficiaries will be converted to the Kadamay.

As it is, Benitez disclosed the Senate has set a hearing on the issue on April 18.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chairman, said he would await proposed amendment in this year’s budget law from Benitez and Evasco. With Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla

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