December 8, 2008
Some 300 beneficiaries of a condominium project located at C-5 Taguig designed to benefit the poor and government employees carried out a silent protest in front of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as they demanded that the Home Guarantee Corporation (HGC) recognize the housing rights of the poor families instead of making the housing project a milking cow of their agency. The protesters called the HGC “a scrooge that is stealing Christmas from the poor.”
Vilma Estidola, president of the Perpetual Help Neighborhood Association of Guadalupe Bliss Inc. (PNAGBI), said “We never wished to be delinquent in our amortization payments but we could not pay our obligations due to the low income of majority of the beneficiaries. About 75% of us are working as laundry women, carpenters and garbage collectors. We are earning a meager 4,500 pesos a month, a family income that could not even provide a decent meal.”
PNAGBI members were relocated from Guadalupe in 1997 and Estidola claimed that they have not received any livelihood assistance despite repeated demands. “Instead the HGC has responded by sending out letters of cancellations and demand letters to vacate our homes. The irony is that the Aquino administration thru Presidential Proclamation 258 provided us the four hectare land as relocation area but then the HGC converted it to a condominium project without prior consultation,” she insisted.
Mark Sison, president of the Building C-17 Neighborhood Association, said “The government knows so well that teachers, local government employees and rank and file military men earn less than 9,500 a month. Yet the condominium units are amortized at 5,000 per month with 14% interest! Presidential Proclamation 103 was meant to provide shelter for government employees but excessive amortization payments are denying us the intent of the law.”
Both groups demanded the lifting of cases and cancellation of contracts filed by the HGC. They are also asking full condonation of the penalties and interest rates imposed in the contracts since it already constitutes 90% of monthly amortization of beneficiaries.
According to Michelle Licudine, Partido ng Manggagawa organizer, “The penalties and interest rates imposed by the HGC are onerous since beneficiaries are living in dire poverty. This housing project was built to provide shelter for the poor and government employees! It is time that the government bailout homeowners from heavy penalties since restructuring of loans are not enough.”
The protesters attended a hearing mediated by the CHR at 2:00 p.m. The protesters however declared that if the negotiation fails to gain recognition of their rights, they will rally at the Senate, House of Representatives and the HGC main office. They are also considering filing a case at the Ombudsman since they assert that the HGC does not have jurisdiction to manage a housing project.