This is in response to the opinion of Mr. Neal Cruz entitled “QC councilors are squatter coddlers” published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 2, 2009 in his column “As I See It”. We in the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) do agree in his assertions that tax payers’ contribution to the society should be spent in meaningful projects and programs and should not be used in “aid of political considerations” of the politicians. That useless tarpaulins, concrete semi-arches, basketball courts and pool hall, and unnecessary waiting sheds which are made intentionally to provide political mileage to politicians are waste of tax payers’ money and should have negative effect to the voting public in the elections.
But, in the same article, we regret that Mr. Cruz made categorical statements prejudicial to one of the most marginalized sectors in our society, the urban poor/informal settlers or “squatters” as Mr. Cruz addressed the sector. While it is correct to criticize the opportunist’s exploitation of the informal settlers during elections, it is improper and inhuman to denounce a proposed law or ordinance in this case which would give much needed relief to the sector especially in this era of crisis which Councilor Bernadette Herrera-Dy’s proposed ordinance declaring moratorium on the eviction of “squatters” is bound to provide. While it is correct to protect the rights of property owners, it is heartless and insensitive to the underprivileged to even insinuate that the urban poor has occupied lands out of opportunism thus no help nor assistance should be provided to the informal settlers rather than being forced to settle informally due to economic hardship. While it is correct that the tax payers should be protected, it is wrong to say that the urban poor are non-tax paying and should not be given protection because no one can escape the Value Added Tax burden. Thus, the informal settlers are also tax payers and should also be protected. Also, all should be given equal protection, tax payers and non-tax payers alike.
This is not to condemn Mr. Cruz nor praise Councilor Herrera-Dy but merely rendering our views on the matter and supporting the subject proposed ordinance. We hope that opinion makers including media practitioners support the urban poor in its war against poverty, its struggle for a place in the city and adequate social protection, and its quest for humane living and dignified housing.