Political will vs mob rule
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2017 - 12:00am

Today is the deadline set in the eviction orders issued by the National Housing Authority (NHA) against the members of the militant urban poor group that shepherded its followers to illegally occupy vacant units in the government housing project in Bulacan. Last March 8, members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) have taken over and since then illegally occupied thousands of vacant housing units in seven government housing sites in Pandi and several other towns in Bulacan.

As of March 20, the NHA reported a total of 5,262 units from Pandi and San Jose del Monte Resettlement Sites were occupied by Kadamay members. The NHA confirmed these housing units were earmarked for low-salaried uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Bureau of Fire Protection; the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; and Metro Manila informal settler families (ISFs) living along danger zones and waterways who were being resettled by the national government.

In effect, the NHA declared, the “illegal occupation” of these vacant units by Kadamay members deprives the intended awardees of their right to government housing assistance.

The NHA statement clearly sets the tone of the eviction notice the agency issued against all of these illegal occupants will be enforced whether the Kadamay members voluntarily comply with it, or not. “Let it be as a matter of declaration, we will never allow any mob rule and such act has no place in a civilized society,” the NHA warned.

In its official statement published in several national newspapers, including at The Star for several days last week, the NHA announced the agency “is firm to proceed legally with the eviction of unauthorized occupants” of the government housing units taken over by defiant Kadamay members.

The publication in newspapers of the NHA statement came after Kadamay members refused to acknowledge receipt of the eviction notices personally handed to them by the NHA representatives. The NHA representatives instead posted the eviction notices at the doors in all illegally occupied housing units. But in acts of defiance, Kadamay house grabbers tore into pieces the NHA eviction notices.

What seems to be odd though was the heading of the published statement: “NHA Goes Legal and Adherence to the Rule of Law.” Whoever crafted that statement seems to be not sure of the NHA mandate and sounded as if still trying to convince the public?

It is the mandate of the government not only to uphold the law but also apply the equal protection of the law.

The mere act of taking over a property that you do not own is in itself a violation of the law.

The local police forces in Bulacan were apparently caught unawares of the illegal acts committed under their noses. When the policemen came, they were reduced to crowd control enforcers, citing the principle of observing maximum tolerance in such situation. Fine.

The owners already living in many of the units in the government housing projects were naturally aghast how such lawlessness prevails with seeming impunity. The policemen cannot even lift a finger to protect their community from these private property transgressors.

But lo and behold! Look who denounced the government and police for alleged violation of their rights to take over State-assisted shelter project? Leaders and members of Kadamay and their fellow left-leaning supporters trooped to the NHA head office in Quezon City last Friday.

With red-waving streamers, the Kadamay and leftist groups supporting their cause seemingly went berserk in trying to take down the steel gates of the NHA and forcibly removed the metallic NHA signage and spray-painted the walls. Their battlecry: “Occupy NHA.”

Left-leaning groups identified by their red streamers from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Akbayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anak Pawis and Kabataan Partylist came in full force at the NHA to show their support to the Kadamay protest attacks and took turns in assailing the government housing programs.

How much lawlessness and vandalism would just be ignored by the police and government authorities concerned for the sake of maximum tolerance?

This is why mob rule reigns supreme in this country.

There is no official word from Malacanang Palace if President Rodrigo Duterte was even aware or knew what was happening. TV news videos showed what appeared to be unrestrained attacks by Kadamay followers destroying government facilities at the NHA.

Seemingly inspired by the successful takeover of vacant housing units in Pandi, Kadamay followers attempted last Friday to grab vacant units of another government housing project in Rizal and in Bustos, Bulacan last Saturday. But they were foiled by neighborhood associations alerted already by media reports on the house-grabbing spree by Kadamay followers.

Gloria Arellano, who identifies herself as the Kadamay chairperson, decried how “the NHA enjoins developers into various housing projects and whether or not the units are filled with families or appropriate building standards are met, companies still receive their payment in full. The NHA then proceeds to amortize payments of so called beneficiaries.”

Speaking for her Kadamay followers, she demanded the NHA to cancel the eviction notices served to the occupied areas in Bulacan. “Should the eviction take place, no matter in what form, we hold President Duterte directly responsible. He has not been true to his promises and has proved to be a servant to campaign donors and big business,” Arellano charged.

The housing units taken over by Kadamay were constructed under the NHA housing project with a private contractor. As the government agency mandated to provide low-cost housing, it is currently headed by Marcelino P. Escalada Jr. as general manager. The NHA is among the government agencies under the umbrella of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) now headed by Cabinet Secretary Chair Leoncio B. Evasco Jr.

According to Escalada, there are 324 Kadamay members who have signed up for the Housing Information Form to qualify for screening process and awarding selection of beneficiaries to all low-cost housing projects of the NHA. If these Kadamay followers can follow the proper procedures, why can’t the rest observe the same civility?

If Kadamay mob-rule leaders are testing the political will of President Duterte, they must heed his words: Do not ignore the law.

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