The tweet of Bianca Gonzalaez @iamsuperbianca seems to be the focus of a lot of Pinoy outrage.
Bianca tweeted: “Ang dami nating nagtatrabaho para makaipon para sa prime lot at bahay plus buwis pa. Bakit nga ba bine-baby ang mga informal settlers?” (Translation: “So many people working hard to save to buy a house on prime land while paying their taxes. Why do we have to baby these informal settlers?”)
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To some, that may seem pangmamata pobre or a form condescension or contempt for poor people. To others, it may actually have publicly voiced out something that they themselves are either afraid of saying or too polite to say. After all, who wants to fight with squatters or be called matapobre?
I don’t agree with Bianca’s idea that squatters are being babied at all. I used to live in a part of Manila where there was a “looban” or squatter community on almost every block and had friends who lived in such loobans.
One thing I can tell you is if that is being babied, I sure as heck don’t want to see what it would be like if they were neglected.
Thing is, the people who live in such colonies don’t exactly live there “rent free” because, in fact, people pay to live in these hovels. What would be abominable is the fact that there are people who illegally claim land and rent it out — presumably “poor people” taking advantage of other “poor people”. Then again, there are also instances where, instead of rent, squatters pay either the katiwala (guardian), barangay official, police, or local toughie so they can put up a shanty.
For sure, they do get a lot of other free stuff. They get free education, free food rations, free medicine, free doctors’ consultations, and what-have-you. But, then again, I don’t know by what stretch of imagination can one think that going to a crowded/rundown school with harassed teachers or a couple of packs of noodles and rice or a pad of paracetamol or some doctor giving you a once over could ever be construed as being babied.
And perhaps just to set things straight about the idea that the government spends tax paper’s money to give squatters homes, well, that may not be completely correct. My memory is a little fuzzy right now, but I think there are at least two agencies that provide housing for the poor (that’s the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation and the National Housing Authority). As I understand it, the funds used by these agencies do not come from taxes but from funds created from government financial institutions and essentially, these funds are loaned out rather than given. (I guess, if you’re interested in how the government shelter program works, I’d have to explain that in a separate post.)
Bianca may have chosen her words poorly, however, I do believe that it also speaks some truth when it comes to describing how the Pinoy middle class (if it can be called that) is being screwed on both ends by the poor as well as the very rich.
Of the things that the government spends a lot of money on, the people who benefit the most from it are the poor and the very rich.
For the amount of money most employees and professionals are paying in taxes, we’re actually getting very little back. The thing is we’re shelling out a large part of our income for stuff we don’t use (like public schools, public hospitals, police, etcetera). On the other end, we’re also getting pretty much a bum deal when it comes to the stuff that we actually use (roads, flood systems, etcetera).
The very rich on the other hand actually pay a smaller amount of taxes in proportion to the wealth they control and yet, they the most control over the government as well as the country’s resources.
Probably the cliched depiction of how the rich rule this country is in the stories of how they call top military and police officials directly when they have a bit of a security problem.
Just look at the Serendra Two blast. If some middle class citizen’s house explodes or burns down, it’s the police and fire brigade that comes — if they come at all. But in the case of Ayala’s property, no less than President Noynoy Aquino, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, and a whole slew of government officials showed up.
Going back to the issue of squatters, Benign0 hit it right smack center when he wrote that the central issue at play in Bianca Gonzalez’s tweet is rule of law.
To that idea, I’d probably add that the surge in the number of squatters can’t be explained purely from an economic point of view (such as migration to the city because livelihood is scarce in rural areas).
I think another cause for the runaway squatterization of Metro Manila is that local governments and property owners either didn’t nip the problem in the bud or just let the problem fester. The thing with squatter colonies is that they usually start with just half a dozen shanties and if no one takes action, that settlement grows and grows with each passing year.
As I’ve said before, the problem really isn’t so much in the law or laws that were made to solve the squatter problem, it’s in the implementation of these law or laws.