Makati Home Ville: Where lies the truth?
LAGUNA, Philippines — “Totoo ‘yung mga sinabi nilang ‘yon. Kahit sinong tao naman ang tatanungin n’yo, sa mga bahay-bahay diyan (They only told the truth. You can ask anyone of the residents here),” claimed Lani Rivera.
She's the wife of Edison, who recently testified before the Senate regarding Vice President Jejomar Binay’s alleged cases of corruption and the relocation site for Makati’s informal settlers in Calauan, Laguna.
“Hindi ko napanood yon. ‘Yung iba lang siguro totoo. Pero nababalitaan ko, ‘yung kasama ni Mang Domeng, parang sa kredibilidad pa lang baka sira na rin siya. Pag magte-testify ka, dapat malinis ‘yung sarili mo," said Arcxon Aguinaldo, one of the residents who also aired his complaints about their situation in Makati Home Ville, over a broadcast news interview.
(I was not able to watch the Senate’s Binay hearings. There may be an iota of truth in it. But Domeng's companion, I just heard, has no credibility. When you testify, you should make sure you’re clean.)
“Kilala ko na ‘yan noon. Yan kasi, pag nalasing, iba. Nagwawala (I’ve known Edison a long time. When he gets drunk, he goes berserk),” narrated Joselito Lao, who is wearing a jersey with a “Binay-De Veyra Makati inter-transport basketball league” printed on it.
The Laos and Riveras are former neighbors in Barangay San Isidro, along the Tripa de Galina estuary, and now also block mates in Makati Home Ville.
The Riveras, along with Domingo Arcilla, who also testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, relocated to Makati Home Ville in 2009.
In his Senate testimony, Edison narrated, “Noong una kaming dalhin doon, para kaming hayop na ikinarga sa trak, diniskarga, halos bumabagyo pa noon. (When we were first brought there, were treated like animals, hauled to trucks and unloaded; a storm was brewing then.)
But fellow Makati Home Ville resident Ernesto Lopez said, “Inihatid ho kami rito. Pero hindi parang mga hayop. May sasakyan kaming ginamit, mga trak. (Yes, we were brought here. But not like animals. The vehicles we used were trucks).
Incidentally, the Riveras now have a livestock business.
“May mga hayop kami, mga kambing, baka, na pinapaalagaan namin sa labas. (We have livestock, goats and cows, raised outside Makati Home Ville),” Lani said.
Lopez believes the Riveras may have an axe to grind because the residents complained about the foul odor from their livestock business. The Riveras were allegedly forced to move their livestock out of the compound.
“Binigyan kami ng dalawang kilong bigas na masama ang lasa at dalawang latang sardinas na kupi (We received two kilos of foul-tasting rice and two deformed cans of sardines),” Edison testified before the Senate.
But Lopez claimed, “Hindi naman siya sira. Hindi naman siya bulok. Wala namang amoy. Kinakain nga namin dito na walang nangyaring masama sa amin. (It’s not spoiled. It’s not stale. There’s no smell. We ate it and nothing happened to us.)
Keeping it real
“Ang problema talaga namin ay tubig at kuryente (Our real problem is having no water and electricity),” Lani claimed.
It is true there is no direct access to clean water.
“Sa bukal kami kumukuha ng tubig (We get water from wells),” Edison testified.
“Pahirapan ngayon. Ang bukal wala nang tubig (It’s difficult now. The wells have no more water), Lani added.
But Lopez countered, “May tubig. Mag-iigib ka nga lang. (There’s water. You just need to fetch it.)”
It was true there was no piping system in place.
“Yung tubig po nasa proseso na. May mga requirements na tayo rito. May mga nakaabang nang tubo. Nakikipag-coordinate na sa Laguna Water District, (We’ve coordinated with the Laguna Water District to process our application for water supply. The pipes are already in place),” he added.
It was also true there was no electricity.
"Yung kuryente po namin, sa labas namin nakukuha (We get electricity from elsewhere),” revealed Zeny Lao, who lives in Phase 2 of the relocation site. They are among the residents who have electric sub-meters, legally tapped into existing power lines.
But some of the new housing units in Phase 3 already have power. Applications for electric meters are also underway for the other housing units.
Lani claimed, “Ang mga tao, takot lang magsalita. Siyempre, Binay ito. Kung paalisin sila? (The people here are just afraid to talk. Of course, this is Binay’s. What if they get evicted?)”
To outsiders, the relocation site is Binay Compound. But to residents, it’s Makati Home Ville, and the 40-hectare property was purchased by the city government of Makati.
Before the Senate committee, Edison recalled asking the Vice President about his alleged promise of providing them shelter: “Sabi niya, ‘Binigyan na kayo ng lupa, gusto n’yo pa ng bahay?" (He said, "You were already given lands, you still want to be given houses?").
Lopez outrightly dismissed this: “Hindi totoo ‘yan (That’s not true)!"
“Yung mga may kaya na magtayo nang sarili nila, okay lang na magtayo. Yung di kaya magtayo, lilipat sila sa pabahay, (Those who have the means, they may build their houses. Those who can’t, will be moved to the housing units),” Zeny explained.
The housing units in Phase 3 were completed in March 2013. But it took 4 years since the first relocatees were moved to Makati Home Ville before the housing units were finished. They weren’t occupied until 6 months later.
“Nagkaproblema po yata kasi sa unang contractor, (I think there was a problem with the frist contractor),” Lopez surmised.
“Yung iba po nagpabayad ng P15,000. Ngayon nagsisisi sila. Sabi nila, ‘Ay, sana hindi namin tinanggap yung financial. Sana nandiyan na kami. Sana maganda rin ang bahay namin,” claimed 68-year-old Melba Riego, who was relocated.
(Others chose to get US$339. Now they regret it. They said, "We wish we didn’t accept the financial package. We wish we were there. We wish we also have nice homes.")
But Aguinaldo, Riego’s former neighbor in Guadalupe Nuevo, is not satisfied with the housing unit awarded to his family.
“Mahina pundasyon nito. Marupok ito. (This has a weak foundation. It’s not solid),” said Aguinaldo.
“Dapat ’yung serbisyo ibibigay nila sa tao. Mahirap kasi pag may korupsyon," he added. (They should provide people with public service. That’s hard when there’s corruption.)
What most of the relocatees worry about is the land title. They only have entry passes, as Edison testified. They fear they have no guarantee, that they may be displaced yet again.
But social worker Maribel Lumang, who works for the Makati Social Welfare Department, disclosed that there are land titles. But these are under the city government’s safe-keeping. They allegedly fear that once the titles are awarded to the residents, some may sell their houses or use them as loan collateral. This reportedly has been the case with some resettlement areas, and widely practiced by professional squatters.
On the other hand, there is also an upside to not having the land titles.
“Wala po kaming binabayaran po dito (We don’t pay any amortization or real estate tax),” Zeny said.
The real score?
When asked about her husband’s current whereabouts, Lani denied she knew where he was. When asked how her husband became a resource person in the Senate’s Binay hearings, she said she really does not know.
“May mga pumapasok din dito na nag-iinterbyu rin. Tinatanong ang kagandahan ng buhay, kung maganda ba ang buhay,” Lani said. (There are people who come here and do interviews. They ask about how good life is here, if it’s a good life.)
Lumang said, “Hopefully, yung problema na ito, yung taong pumapasok rito, maintindihan din nila, ang sinisira nila ay ‘yung community. In my opinion, ang nagpapagulo rin sa isang komunidad ay pulitika." (Hopefully, this problem, the people who come here, will eventually understand, that they are destroying the community. In my opinion, what causes chaos in a community is politics.)
Many of the residents here actually agree that their life is better at Makati Home Ville. – Rappler.com