An impossible haves and have-nots dialogue
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-09-28
Dialogue and conflict resolution are only possible when two sides of an issue are willing to accept certain principles as their starting points. Sans a mutually acceptable principle, two conflicting sides cannot progress towards a mutually acceptable compromise.

The peace talks between our government and the rebel group MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) can only progress if they both accept that they must undertake a process which includes all Mindanao stakeholders. A peace agreement that excludes the participation and interests of other Mindanao stakeholders will only transfer the conflict to another theatre.

In a society where about 85 percent of the national wealth is in the hands of only around 3 percent of the population, the Wealth Gap spawns a dangerous imbalance. This type of polarization serves as the best promoter of a social explosion. The fate of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas Romanov II, is something you will try to avoid if you rank among the haves of society.

We should be thankful for initiatives like those of the Focolare Movement and Tony Meloto’s Gawad Kalinga (GK) for creating common ground for promoting the bridging of the Wealth Gap. The Economy of Communion (EoC) of the Focolare and GK communities provide excellent opportunities for the haves and the have-nots of society to work together in addressing the socio-economic imbalance.

EoC teaches us that only the poor can help themselves — but not alone. That means that for a society to address poverty, the haves and the have-nots must work together. In the EoC concept, the objective is to convert the have-nots into becoming one of the haves who will then also focus on addressing the poverty problems of other have-nots. GK is an excellent showcase of what the EoC is trying to promote.

Last Thursday, we saw a conflict situation which demonstrated a total failure to attain a workable solution to a “haves versus the have-nots” problem. This was the messy attempted demolition of squatter dwellings on the Quezon City 29-hectare NHA (National Housing Authority) property which has been allocated for the development of a business and commercial district.

Media accounts had established that the NHA complied with due process in seeking to relocate the squatters — or more popularly called these days as informal settlers. The NHA was acting on the strength of a court order which established their right as the property owner to transfer the squatters to a relocation site in Montalban, Rizal. The NHA even gave P6, 000 cash incentives to each family who cooperated with the transfer scheme. The squatters were given a reasonable lead time to prepare for the transfer schedule. 

Obviously, the NHA efforts were insufficient to secure an orderly transfer of the squatters to the relocation site. A street brawl ensued as many of the affected squatters opted to resist the demolition and transfer. The street battle spilled to EDSA, a major thoroughfare, and this clogged up northbound vehicular traffic for hours. It was ugly — a grim reminder of the desperate situation our country is in — and President Noynoy Aquino had to order a suspension of the relocation until a better plan has been drawn.

The September 23 episode of ANC’s Rundown (hosted by Ces Drilon and TJ Manotoc) featured a face off between NHA general manager Chito Cruz and Ms. Jocy Lopez who had represented the affected squatter families. That face off demonstrated why a violent conflict was inevitable.

Our normal tendency is to sympathize with the displaced family. That is only natural because we can easily empathize with the suffering of fellow human beings who are about to be ejected from their homes. You’d hate to imagine yourself in their shoes, especially if you’re also saddled with their limited options owing to their limited means.

However, the ANC face off between NHA’s Chito Cruz and Ms. Jocy Lopez of the squatter families presented a different picture which prompted your Chair Wrecker and some folks who registered their reactions by Twitter not to sympathize with the squatters Ms. Lopez had represented. The position which was expressed by Ms. Lopez was simply outrageous.

Ms. Lopez talked as if the squatters owned the land. Contrary to the reality that a squatter colony depresses property prices, Ms. Lopez even asserted that they were owed for having developed the property during the time that they were squatting there. She rejected the relocation site for being too far from their present sources of income and that it lacked development. She sounded like the only acceptable relocation site is inside the nearby Trinoma Mall.

You’d wonder if you watched the ANC Rundown episode if Ms. Lopez was reflecting the reported participation of militant activists in the conflict. NHA may be able to meet most of the justifiable needs of the squatter families in their proposed relocation sites but it will be impossible for NHA to accommodate the outrageous demands of the militant activists who are seeking to promote a class war.

These militant activists, the self appointed champions of the poor, should be exposed for what they really are. Like the oligarchs whom they are seeking to obliterate, they too are exploiting the poor in order to promote their ideology.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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