Officials from the administration of former President Benigno Aquino should be held liable for the urban poor sector’s housing woes.
Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) chairman Terry Ridon yesterday said in a Palace briefing that there seems to have been something fishy with the previous administration’s housing projects and that those behind the sector’s woes could be sent to jail.
“I think there are people who should be held liable because for the longest time, these houses were unoccupied. Zero persons lived there. It was a project that was meant to fail,” Ridon told reporters.
“Obviously in terms of the project planning itself, there were problems already. So, for example, in terms of site identification, in terms of the quality of the housing themselves and in terms of the actual absence of facilities and services,” he elaborated.
Ridon said the housing projects done by the Aquino administration were proven futile due to the occupation done by militant group Kadamay in idle houses meant for families of policemen and soldiers in Pandi, Bulacan a month ago.
The Aquino administration spent P18.9 billion for its flagship housing program for state security personnel.The Commission on Audit (CoA) in 2014 reported that 10,500 housing units erected by three developers in 2012 were substandard. They were paid P781 million, yet one of the three had not submitted the requisite plans, designs, and completion reports.
In the same year, CoA also found out that the National Housing Authority (NHA) paid out P765 million from former President Aquino’s unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Often referred to by critics as Aquino’s “pork barrel,” DAP was already ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013 which means that the NHA still availed itself of DAP funds despite its being illegal already in 2014.
At that time, NHA’s General Manager was lawyer Chito Cruz who is then President Aquino’s classmate.
Asked if there will be executives from Aquino’s clique that might face jail time, PCUP chief Ridon replied: “Definitely! It’s the people’s money! Whatever it is that, whatever accountability that can be exacted — civil, administrative, criminal it ought to be undertaken in respect to this project.”
On another point, former left-wing parliamentarian turned government executive Ridon said that the PCUP is currently negotiating with the combative Kadamay group to avoid future attempts at its members occupying stalled housing projects.
“Our dialog with Kadamay is continuing. Halting house-grabbing is one of the matters that we are talking about,” Ridon said, adding however that there is no assurance from his part that his leftist comrades will stop their activities that was described by President Duterte as a form of “anarchy.”
“I am not speaking in behalf of Kadamay but if we, in the government, cannot give the best solutions for our urban poor, we cannot tell if their occupying will stop or not,” he added.
On the other hand, as the Duterte government is now bent on constructing big ticket infrastructure projects it is likely that informal settlers or the so-called “urban poor” will be hit or displaced.
But this time around, under President Duterte’s watch, PCUP chief Ridon promised that there will be no demolitions unless relocation is provided for them.
“We have to remember that PCUP is the final clearance for all the demolitions, particularly for infra projects. So, under the leadership of the President, he has made it clear that there will be no demolitions without relocation,” Ridon said.