MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo signed a covenant with urban poor organizations, promising to allot an annual P50-billion budget for socialized housing and to give them a seat on the table to craft much-needed reforms for their sector.
On Monday, January 31, the lone female presidential aspirant who once was the housing czar of President Rodrigo Duterte inked a pact with the Leni Urban Poor Council, a coalition backing her presidential bid in the May elections.
The pledge was also signed by Robredo’s running mate, Senator Kiko Pangilinan.
Robredo committed to set aside P50 billion per year for six years to fund her proposed reforms in the government’s socialized housing programs and assistance to indigent Filipinos.
She would push for safe and affordable in-city resettlement for informal settlers, noting how many families have been forced to transfer to far-flung housing compounds with poor access to basic necessities like potable water and electricity.
Robredo’s covenant with the urban poor leaders also included giving justice for families forced to resettle homes, removing red tape in the housing industry, and ensuring they get the necessary assistance to alleviate the impacts of the pandemic.
But Robredo said the only way for all these reforms to happen is if the government gives the platform for indigent Filipinos to actively be part of policy-making, calling the effort the “People’s Plan.”
A development worker and alternative lawyer before joining politics, Robredo has a vast experience in empowering ordinary Filipinos.
She spoke to the urban poor leaders gathered in Quezon City on Monday with the familiarity of an old friend.
Robredo called out some of them by names in her speech, remembering how several of the sectoral leaders were among the last people to speak with her late husband, former interior and local government chief Jesse Robredo.
Two days before Jesse’s plane crashed off the coast of Masbate on August 18, 2012, Robredo recalled her husband was in an hours-long meeting in Manila with some groups now belonging to the Leni Urban Poor Council.
She admired the sectoral leaders’ tireless efforts to give a voice to the poor. Robredo then promised that if she becomes the next Philippine president, she would listen to them and empower them in discussions in housing reform.
“Huwag po tayong papayag na inaasikaso lang nga tayo tuwing kailangan ‘yung ating boto, pero pagkatapos ay hindi na tayo inaasikaso. Sisiguraduhin po natin na kapag tayo ‘yung nabigyan ng pagkakataon, kabahagi kayo every step of the way,” Robredo said.
(Don’t allow people to take care of your needs only when they need your vote, but they would abandon you soon after. If you give me the chance, I would ensure that you would be part of the reforms every step of the way.)
“Gustong sabihin, honest-to-goodness na empowerment. Gustong sabihin, kung ano ‘yung pinaggagawa ninyo dito… na kayo ‘yung nagsasabi na ito ‘yung gagawin namin, kailangan lang namin ng tulong, kailangan lang namin ng training pero ito ‘yung gusto namin, ganun po ‘yung gagawin natin,” she added.
(What I mean to say is, there will be honest-to-goodness empowerment. That means the things you are doing right now… wherein you are the ones telling me what you want to do and what assistance you need to make that happen, that you need training, that’s also what I want, that’s what I would push for.)
First-hand experience as HUDCC chair
The Vice President is no stranger to the perennial housing problems in the country, as Duterte earlier appointed her as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
But Robredo resigned from the post in December 2016, after the President eased her out of Cabinet meetings due to her criticisms of his bloody drug war. Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign is now the subject of a crimes against humanity probe by the International Criminal Court.
Robredo had a short but productive stint in the HUDCC, providing low-cost housing to 46,000 families and setting up a P1-billion worth of Urban Development Assistance Fund as incentive to local government units.
She scaled down the documentary requirements for socialized housing projects from 27 to 9, and set up a special lane for processing certificate of tax exemption for transfers of raw land for urgent socialized housing projects.
Robredo also developed a system that integrated data from geohazard risk maps and geographic information from the European Satellite Agency with the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s National Household Targeting System and the title information from the Land Registration Authority. – Rappler.com