“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: “There are plenty of people working to save money for prime lot and house plus taxes. Why are we treating these informal settlers like babies.?” —
Obviously she was referring to the government soft treatment of squatters as a form of ‘baby-sitting.’
Her tweet was a subject of a blog article from GRP, a site that highlights Pinoys’ dysfunction and anything that is derogatory to the Filipinos. Contributors/writers of this blog grew out from an older blog entitled AntiPinoy, another Pinoy-bashing site, though both claimed that they only have the welfare of the Pinoys at heart, and their exposing Pinoys’ flaws was meant to address them. But the personalities behind these two blogs are virulently at odds with each other now. If they have the same agenda — to rescue the Pinoys from their utter ignorance, it just hit me why should they be quarelling now? Is there a behind the scene agenda that wedged their path of prior wholesome collaboration?
But I am digressing.
GRP’s waxing an article over Ms.Gonzalez’s tweet, is an endorsement of the young lady’s position against ‘informal settlers’ aka, squatters.
GRP said that there used to be law, that punishes squatting but now it was abrogated. It is not true.. Squatting is still illegal.
Ms. Gonzalez, being young can say awful things in her tweet, but for GRP to endorse her immature ranting only shows that the blog is immature itself. But please don’t get me wrong. I am against squatting also, but I would not wear King Priam’s armor and draw a line of combat against these miserable creatures, but I will, against professional squatters!
Squatting in Metro Manila grew exponentially partly because politicians need them during elections and partly because the national government failed to provide economic opportunities in the countryside.
In the ages past, when fishing and farming were fashionable, only few brave souls troop to the dirty and noisy cities. Many remained in the provinces. But the industrialist-bureaucrats walked away from agricultural-based economy and sold the idea that industrialization was better. Young and enthusiastic country boys abandoned their barrios and take a beeline route to the cities. Others were simply attracted to the glitters of the neon lights and joined the bandwagon for an adventure of a lifetime.
The promised industrialization did not come. Hence we have surplus hands in the cities which we could not pull back to the barrios because farming and fishing was no longer in fashion, having been exposed to the city where earnings from menial jobs could tide over their hunger and inexpensive shanties they can call homes. Or even if the industry economy took hold in the island, it is doubtful if the city exodus of barrio folks carries with it the needed skills.
In decades to come, farming opportunities were further diluted because the land reform program of the government forced the landowners to convert their fields into subdivisions or by contrivance or artificial machination, had their haciendas exempted from land reform.
The landowners were not that vicious. They were simply opposed to the idea of ‘national land grabbing’ conveniently styled ‘land reform’ by Marcos by offering them pittance for their haciendas while Marcos’s hacienda and that of his cronies were intact and exempt.
Meanwhile, fishing in the countryside was taken over by big fishing trawls.
Trapped in the metropolis that offers no economic boon, these ‘farm-boys’ and ‘fisher-boys’ started breeding like rabbits in their rabbit holes — the esteros along Pasig river and boxed shanties on inland spaces. They do not pay taxes as Ms. Gonzalez claimed, but they pay utilities like water and electricity through their cooperatives. But illegal connection to avoid utility expenses becomes a trend. Meralco and Nawasa would pass on to legit consumers “as lost generation charges” utilities consumed by squatters through illegal connections.
But if we look hard enough the urban poor indirectly paid their dues to society every time they purchase basic needs such as food, clothing and school materials for their children with imputed taxes on them. It was not also because they were indolent that chiefly caused their being poor. It is the economic system that trap them in this miserable condition.
“The income inequality in the Philippines is exacerbated by regressive government tax policy. According to World Bank , a revenue collections fall more heavily on the poor than the rich, and hence, ‘inequality of income after taxes is also much worse when compared with the similar indicators in other countries.” (The Philippines, The Political Economy and Growth and Impoverishment In the Marcos Era, p. 39).
(a) further criticism of the Philippine development strategy is that the country could have achieved more rapid growth under alternative policies. Equity was traded off for growth in the Philippines. Rather, both were sacrificed to a technocratic development strategy wedded to an unjust political and economic order.” (ibid, p. 5)
While in the metropolis, these unused laborers and their offspring have learned ubiquitous skills – taxi, bus and jeepney driving and peddling. The latter creates another problem, itinerant vendors crowding busy city sidewalks; peddling includes distributing drugs for organized crimes — pimping and flesh trade for their women blossomed.
When flash floods drown Manila, they become convenient scapegoats – the true culprits however, are the rich illegal loggers working in tandem with corrupt bureaucracy and city planners that did not dig subterranean city street canals deep enough to route flood waters to the sea. When businessmen wanted their space, they are uprooted – they fight the demolition, some died; when finally subdued, they were thrown into another set of hell-hole without facilities and utilities to address their basic hygiene. Their conditions is a far cry from Ms. Gonzalez’s juvenile innuendos that we are treating them like “babies.” If that is the way we treat our babies, many babies would be broken-hearted and traumatized! (Please see related post on how we treat the squatters).
Despite their being a burden, these squatters do not live a life worth our envy. Our hard work to provide us better living space is totally irrelevant in their quest for a few square feet of squalor they can put a cardboard on as mattress to rest their weary feet and soul. Their being tax-exempt did not deprive us of our hard-earned peso. Maybe the ‘lost generation charges’ will, but it was the fault of Meralco and Nawasa, in passing their loss to the unsuspecting legitimate consumers when they can simply trim down their fat bonuses to offset their loss.
The squatters’ pitiful existence must rekindle our humanity rather than smother it – trade our envy with compassion, our resentment for understanding. It is a Christian value we must treasure.
Ms. Gonzalez, can try the shoes of these squatters for size, but after putting them on, she would realize, that their subhuman conditions in the slums, do not merit our censure, much less our envy because then we know what a good life we have compared to theirs.’
“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members — the last, the least, the littlest.” — Cardinal Roger Mahony