Ridon: Low-cost housing projects that were 'meant to fail' should be probed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) The Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) wants former government officials investigated for poorly made housing units meant for police and military officers.

PCUP Chairman Terry Ridon said in an April 20 Malacañang press briefing that he is calling on lawmakers to look into housing projects that, to him, were “meant to fail.”

Talagang bulok yung marami sa mga naitayo roon and we really have to be frank with everybody about it," he said. "Tingin ko dapat may managot kasi sa loob ng mahabang panahon, zero yung tumira eh."

[Translation: Many of the houses that were put up there are terrible and we really have to be frank with everybody about it. I think someone should answer for these houses because no one lived there for the longest time.]

Ridon's statement comes in light of controversy over 5,900 idle houses in Pandi, Bulacan that have been illegally occupied by around 24,000 members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) since March 8.

Read: KADAMAY members to fight eviction from Bulacan housing units

Moves to evict them on March 27 were called off after a dialogue between Kadamay and the National Housing Authority (NHA), which allowed the members to stay until May 30.

Read: PNP concerned with housing rights after Bulacan eviction called off

In an April 4 speech, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the affected military and police officers to give up their houses, promising to put up bigger and better units hopefully by December 2017.

Read: Duterte to soldiers, policemen: Give up housing in Pandi to Kadamay

Idle houses have no water, power

Ridon said although he supports Duterte’s move to allow the Kadamay members to occupy idle housing units, he added that many of these remained empty because the intended beneficiaries refused to live in “substandard” houses that were too small and lacked water and electricity.

In an April 18 Senate hearing, NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada said 5,124 housing units awarded to low-ranking officers of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces have yet to be occupied as of March 2017.

Read: NHA sets June 15 deadline for soldiers, police to occupy 55,000 housing units

He added that if a soldier or police officer fails to express his or her interest in the unit after June 15, "we might as well give these to the members of the qualified beneficiaries."

Escalada proposed that the houses could be given to public school teachers, employees of local government units, barangay officials and functionaries, and informal settlers who would qualify for the housing program.

"This is also social injustice because there are those who are homeless but there are [houses] that have been constructed by NHA," Escalada added.

Kadamay may pay

Meanwhile, Ridon said officials are still studying whether or not the Kadamay members will have to pay for the units in Pandi.

Ridon also said while it is not a “general policy” of the administration to allow urban poor to occupy idle houses, the Pandi occupation may not be the last incident.

“You have houses without people and people without houses," he said. "That is something that I’m quite certain will (cause) another Kadamay (type of occupation).”

He also said Kadamay’s move to occupy the units is a “wake-up call” for concerned authorities to address the problems in the housing sector.

Ridon the government needs to build 1 million houses before the end of Duterte’s term to address the backlog in housing.

He added that ₱1 trillion pesos needed to resolve the “housing crisis.”