Bianca Gonzalez’s Tweet Reveals The Pinoy Middle Class as the Thin Filling Inside an Entitlement Sandwich


The tweet of Bianca Gonzalaez @iamsuperbianca seems to be the focus of a lot of Pinoy outrage.

Some people believe it's better for people to be happy in poverty...

If squatters are being babied, I sure as heck don’t want to see them being neglected.

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.

29 Replies to “Bianca Gonzalez’s Tweet Reveals The Pinoy Middle Class as the Thin Filling Inside an Entitlement Sandwich”

  1. Paul,

    There’s a quote from the late comedian George Carlin that comes to mind:

    “The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes.
    The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work.
    The poor are there…just to scare the shit out of the middle class!”

      1. There’s a woman named Cristy who says that we cannot take Mr. Carlin seriously because he’s a comedian, not a scholar. Can you believe that load of shit she just said? I highly respect people with degrees, but I also respect people with wisdom even if they hadn’t got highbrow education. Simplistic, degree-conscious Filipina she is.

  2. Sometimes, Paul, it really is that simple.

    Are the poor being babied? Look at it from this perspective: The underclass receive cash subsidies, free education and a measure of free health care that neither the so-called middle class nor the oligarchy receive. And this is allocated by our national government without any real compulsion that they become productive at a later time in the future by engaging in some type of economic activity.

    That these dole-outs do not even meet subsistence level is another issue. While the intentions of our politicians may be noble, the end result is that the less than adequate efforts expended by a sting of administrations breeds more resentment among the underprivileged than respect or gratitude. Especially when they come to the looban dressed in designer clothes and SUVs. Invariably the main target of that animosity becomes the middle class.

    The other thing you mention — internal migration. Again, let’s put it in perspective. The source of the growing population in any urban center IS the rural population moving to cities prompted by socioeconomic conditions in their hometowns becoming untenable. Or when physical conditions force them (say in the aftermath of a natural disaster) to relocate.

    You should distinguish between those reasons for transplanting the rural population and the more complex causes of WHY the poor/squatters REMAIN in their degenerate state (and even multiply). That’s where all the other issues come in — politics, the livelihood problem, and, yes, the crime syndicates that game the system to take advantage of the inadequate safety net programs to assist the urban poor.

    1. ‘Agree with you Johnny Saint.

      Paul, Bianca didn’t mean na “binebaby” natin ang mahihirap. You must have gotten confused. Bianca means that binebaby natin ang mga squatters: free house and lot (or sometimes just free lot) plus rent allowance. Please stop straying away from the SQUATTING ISSUE. Because of opinions such as these, you are not only confusing yoursef but you are also confusing the squatters who, instead of understanding the issue, only feels sorry for themselves and just keep on fighting for something illegal.

      1. I agree with you Johnny Saint and Fed Up. This article
        talks about a misconstrued understanding of the tweet.

    2. Hey there Johnny!

      I just don’t think “being babied” is the right term to describe what the government is doing.

      For sure, though, the poor are being patronized and used in almost every politician’s propaganda in a very bad way.

      Of course, those among the poor who have become desensitized and accustomed to the sleights probably don’t mind it any more. By their own reasoning or by the reasoning drummed into their heads, they’re poor and so they don’t have a right to complain about what is done to them or given to them — even it is an insult to their humanity.

      I’d rather not insult the poor even more by agreeing that they’re being babied. I know too many of them by name, been welcomed in to too many hovels to start doing that, and at times, been fortunate enough to help them with one thing or another.

      I think, what really keeps people poor is not the constant lack of resources or opportunities, but, rather, the mindset that is inculcated in them from the time they are children and reinforced as they grow up.

      In order to uplift people from poverty, I think the crucial thing to do is to change their mindset and that’s what all this “capacity building” philosophy in anti-poverty programs are about.

      Ideally, the dole-outs are temporary interventions and should be given only up to the time that the poor have developed the ability to provide for themselves.

      However, that hardly happens because of the huge pay-off for continuing the dole-outs.

      On one hand, the politician/government gets a lot of praise and a justification for a bigger budget (hence more taxes). On the other, you’ve got a lot of people who’re only too happy to receive the dole-out.

      What is lacking, most of the times, is a time limit or any limit to the dole-out program and it seems it can continue indefinitely.

      Anyway, you probably know that already.

      But here’s something that interesting that I found out about while I was working on community projects up north and it’s called “assets based community development”.

      As an approach to poverty reduction, the ABCD program doesn’t look at people a hungry mouths to feed, but rather as people who haven’t realized their capacity to help themselves.

      Here’s a better explanation from the Wiki:

      Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology that seeks to uncover and use the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development.
      The first step in the process of community development is to assess the resources of a community through a capacity inventory [1] or through another process of talking to the residents to determine what types of skills and experience are available. The next step is to support communities, to discover what they care enough about to act. The final step is to determine how citizens can act together to achieve those goals.

      1. I’m with you there. The government should have a prescribed limit as to the amount of welfare/monetary assistance the poor/squatters can receive. That the implementing guidelines are unclear with respect to the dole outs and the length of time they can receive it is definitely one of the reasons why they aren’t encouraged to get off the political gravy train.

        With regards to ABCD, I’m wondering if it isn’t better for NGOs and/or charities to take charge of the activity instead of the government. Something like Gawad Kalinga. They seem to be enjoying some measure of success. Without the baggage of political agendas.

        1. A friend who is an officer of NATCOOP is actually distributing the CCT funds in Polilo Island, they were awarded the contract to distribute the funds after applying for it.

          What’s good about that is that they know exactly who it is being given to (because the operator is a local and it is a small island) and often report people who don’t use the money for what it is intended for (word goes around fast in the island, so when someone uses it to gamble or have a drink, they get found out pretty quick).

          Using NGOs might be good, but there are also plenty of fly-by-night NGOs and so a lot of care has to be put in it choosing what NGO to use. Still, it’s a good idea and I wonder if they haven’t already done this.

      2. You know, the previous post by Ilda had a comment where respondent mentioned that those who can should “take care” of the poor/less fortunate. The actual term he used was “mag-aruga.” That usually translates to mean “to nurture” or “to baby.” It isn’t just the mindset of the squatters that needs to change but also that of the people who are convinced the “poor” NEED dole outs and other forms of welfare assistance.

        1. Yes, I agree that there is a need to also change the mindset of donors.

          “Caring” for the poor takes a lot more than giving them their basic needs.

          As with everything, there’s the right kind of babying and the wrong kind.

          The wrong kind involves just giving them what they need and then leaving them be, thinking the problem has been solved.

          That’s what happens every time there is a disaster. The donors come in with all the relief goods and people get to stay in evacuation centers (which might look like a fiesta, but it hardly is). Then, after a few weeks, the relief goods stop coming and the people are driven out of evacuation centers.

          So, what happens is that people whose entire livelihoods have been wiped out return to their homes to try and rebuild their lives, many having to start over.

          That’s when they get into debt, if they haven’t gotten into debt already.

          One thing that ought to be done in such situations, is that rather than just give these people disaster dole outs, is to employ those who can be employed for disaster rehab work.

          Nothing restores a person’s confidence and sense of self-worth after a disaster faster than work.

          I should probably explain this more in another post though because the idea behind it was actually the subject of a pretty extensive study that became a basis for a bill in the Senate.

  3. Nip it in the bud…implement the law, be just & fair. Walang lagay lagay at palakasan. Kung bawal magtayo nang shanty e di paalisin para di na dumami in the first place. Eh problema kase corrupt yung nag implement nang batas down to the smallest fish. Kaya nabubulok ang sistema natin. It’s a jungle out there kaya nasasabing wala tayong disciplina. Tignan mo na lang yung nagtitinda sa side walk pati kalye sinasakop na kaya di makadaan ang sasakyan…bawal magtinda sa sidewalk pero nangyayari kase nalalagayan yung mga dapat mag implement nang batas. Yung mga pedi cab / padyak at tricycle drivers mga astig. Kotse pa ang kailangan tumabi and give the right of way sa kanila. Sangkatutak permit bigay sa kanila kaya they cause traffic congestion. Have you experienced fallowing a tricycles or pedicab in a highway? Grabe dami nila. talagang you have to add 2 hours to an hour commute time pag nasa Philippines.

  4. p___ng ina kasing gobyerno magkaroon kau ng pangil at mahigpit na batas na ipagbawal ang squatting…hindi pala sila mga tamad well ibig sabihin me kakayanan magkaroon ng maayos na tirahan. Kaung mga squatters wag nman makapal mukha ninyo..mga ignorante sa batas at abusado ibinibigay na ang lahat still u pull down urself sa kawalan ng dignidad..karamihan sa inyo ayaw itaas ang ang antas ng pamumuhay palagiang sinasabi at ikinakatwiran ang kahirapan ng buhay…tama nman si bianca bine baby nyo yang mga yan kaya namimihasa matapos mong maialis ayun at bumabalik pa rin..kaung supporters ng ng mga squatters wag nyo silang kunsintihin ang illegal sila pang makakapal ang mukha na umangkin sa lupa na hindi sa kanila..alam ko ang nararamasan ng isang squatter dahil minsan akoy naging sila….

  5. I want to stop paying taxes. I sure want to if I can and have to option to do so. It is a bit harsh, but at least I could have a say on that squatters issue. I wish I can say “I don’t want to pay taxes if you will just give it to those squatters.” And then, hopefully, the government will make a choice. A choice that will not please everyone but at least it won’t be a politicking choice. – but then again I know can’t, mustn’t, and shouldn’t do such a thing as not pay my taxes.

  6. “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.”

    Understand that we don’t know the full details of the “neglected” land squatters squat on. Many of them may be involved in legal battles where no one will be able to do anything to secure and maintain the land. There’s a lot of circumstances involved and I’ve heard many stories of how land owners locked in inheritance battles, money problems have their property virtually untouchable and watch with despair as squatters took over their land. Remember legal battles in our wonderful country can take decades to resolve, that’s a lot of time for squatters to start having grandchildren.

    Land is money. Land is a A LOT OF MONEY especially in places within Metro Manila. To say they were allowed to be neglected due to laziness, is like saying that someone got too lazy to pick up several hundred million pesos worth of bills in bags with their name just lying in the sidewalk for anyone to pick up. There might be some who are, certainly, but I highly doubt that is the main reason for the neglected property.

      1. Lawyers have a lot of horror stories regarding land ownership.

        I’ve even heard of one, where one party deliberately hired squatters to squat on the property just to antagonize the other party. 🙁

        1. I’ve heard something similar. The property is occupied and the dispute over the land is sidelined in favor of a case involving the relocation and compensation of the squatters brought in to do the occupation.

        2. Yep.

          There’s also the consideration that the land owner may not even able to afford to commercialize on it nor be able to secure the land (like hiring trained security guards with guns and dogs to patrol the property 24/7), after all not all landowner’s last names can be Zobel-Ayala.

          Now combine that with the squatters’ reputation of employing violence to get their way, is it any wonder many landlords feel helpless and frustrated?

          As much as I say land is money, it is not liquid. And just because it has value, it does not mean there will always be buyers who want to buy it from you.

  7. I have had this idea for over a decade, which is bordering on the one-china policy. How about compulsory ligation and vasectomy for those with child/ren and cannot afford to raise them. If they make their children work or wander on the streets for food, or if their children is found stealing or committing crime, the parents are subject for criminal negligence.

  8. My solution in mind is not easy and will take a LOT of years before the result — no other than population control! Just like Jam said. Something that gives you no right to have a child if your income cannot afford to give your child a decent life.

    This is where squatters are coming from. Born poor, died poor, but before dying were able to make more than 5 children who were all unable to have an education and are now living in the same area, each with families, still the same kind of life. They are multiplying fast under the same life status! And it is getting worse

    How about a medicine that removes a person’s desire to have sex? if there is this kind of medicine, it will be a lot cheaper than compulsory vesectomy/ligation whatever, plus this doesnt require operation of some sort. I wish this kind of medicine will get distributed one day and have people compulsory take it if they cant do safe sex. This will stop the urge to do sex, so no “life” of some sort is being killed here. This should be strictly implemented by law to those who cannot afford to give a good life to their children or if they maxed out their child limit based on their income.

    If you disobeyed the law, you will go to prison, and your child will have to be adopted by a childless couple…

    Is this a bad idea? haha

  9. There’s another dynamic that hasn’t been addressed: the relationship of the LGUs and the very vote-rich squatter population. To be totally politically incorrect about it, if the squatters weren’t given voting rights, the President himself would probably be there, along with all the governors and mayors and councilors, kicking the squatters’ asses.

  10. In order to fully understand whether it’s necessary to feel pity for the squatters one should try to personally mingle with these people.

    Through personal experience in one of our outreach program interaction with these people was made for over a year.

    Majority of the people there can’t even afford to pay for three square meals a day even for themselves alone. However, the most despicable of all is they keep on having babies almost every single year.

    They leave their children roaming the streets early in the morning through the night, everyday, as long as they’re not seriously ill.

    You lend them money out of pity but when the time comes for them to pay up they threaten to create trouble for you.

    For these people, feeling pity for them is a weakness that they can exploit for their personal advantage. Pity makes them more courageous and arrogant to be more demanding for free support that they don’t even deserve at all.

    Perhaps those who solely rely on general concepts would feel that squatters deserve human respect and caring considering that they are “people”. Well, perhaps they look like people, but they’re upbringing have already turned most, if not all of them into something inhuman.

  11. I personally think it would have been better if the government allocated such a huge budget to the rural poor such as farmers and sugarcane workers first. Kawawa rin naman sila – and they need financial assistance for their livelihood too. Hindi lang naman informal settlers ang mahirap. I find it quite unfair for rural workers who are still waiting for the fractions of lands they have tolled for years – and they’ve been staying where they are legally for several generations. Perhaps the government have to reward their efforts first?

    1. Change of mindset/attitude/perspective is really what we need. If other countries can pull themselves out this population rut, why can’t we?

  12. If a disaster occurs in a squatter community, the first people who come are the politicians. They come with their SUVs , bodyguards, alalays, etc.if there is a case between the property owner and the squatters the barangay will advise that the case be brought to the upper courts. The squatter is usually a voter since most land owner do not live in the vicinity.
    I do remember when I went out to check a property in Pasig, I was asked by the Muslim community to give the 100 sqm property to them. Does the city know that the Muslims and the city accepted the building of a mosque in a residential area . It reflected the squatter thinking of these minority. They can built a multimillion structure in an area given by the government for the poor. I talked with the barangay. The police asked me to sell the property in installment so that he can built an apartment. Bullshit! You ask help from these barangays and othe government officials and there are always strings attached. I remembered I followed the transfer papers in Pasig twenty visits before getting the title and the new tax Dec.
    Now I am following up papers in Marikina. Marikina prides itself for it’s no squatters . Resettlement.Ironically the resettlements gets their permits faster than a contractor can get from the city engineers. The contractor left the job unfinished and it appears he made the structures without getting the permit . So far twenty visits pa Lang in my follow up for the wiring permit. The city engineer is even asking an undertaking that I cannot sell the property. Grave what the city government can ask you to do. I made the wrong choice of building structures between resettlements. Some lot owners built 4 story buildings without a location plan, without easements but with more budget. They even had the audacity to use our easements.
    We businessmen look for return of investments . The government put so much pressure on apartment contractors (7% increase every year, brgy clearance, city permits including fire , sanitary, engineering etc….A p700 th units should at least have a monthly income of p7000th. Rather hard to earn in the outskirt of Marikina.
    So many skyscrapers are being built in our cities without proper planning. After the multistory buildings are built the neighboring areas suddenly experience perennial flooding. Ironically the condos are late . There is very little demand for space in the budget of P20th a month. Filipinos as a rule prefer house with lots.
    Now the squatters. Why do they stay in their stinking hole. Why leave when our place is accessible to transportation. When we can have business at a
    minimal fees.

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