THE UNLIKELY LEADER

By Jesus Jayson Miranda

Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP)

Arlene Trinidad never imagined herself as a leader of a community organization. Comprising 50 families, her association, ESBACONA Block 2  Homeowners Association, is one of the hundreds of people’s organizations in the National Government Center (NGC) struggling for the     formalization of their ownership of the land proclaimed as a socialized housing site in 1987. The NGC is a classic example of a government      project fraught with delays and virtually controlled by squatting syndicates, so when her neighbors asked her to be their president in 1998,    Arlene wanted to turn them down. Timid and soft-spoken, she thought that she did not have the qualities of a leader that will effectively deal with the seemingly insurmountable problems in NGC. But they were persistent. Even her husband was among those who encouraged her to    accept the challenge. And now for more than 13 years, Trinidad has been serving as ESBACONA’s voice in their struggle for change in their     community.

A long struggle

In 1979, President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1826 which reserved 444 hectares of land along the Commonwealth (both the east and west sides) area in Quezon City for the development of a centralized government complex. Eight years after, Arlene and her family settled in the area. NGC in 1987 was a thriving community of informal settlers, many of them bought “rights” from original settlers and satisfied themselves living in temporary dwellings until the area became a permanent residence for them. Arlene could recall the rough pathways meandering through their rickety homes becoming muddy during rainy days. Basic utilities like potable water and electricity were non-existent. NGC then was an enclave for criminals, a “dumping site” for murder victims.

In 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No, 137 excluding 184 hectares in the NGC – West side area from the coverage of Proclamation 1826, declaring the same open for disposition to qualified beneficiaries. In 1994, another proclamation was made, this time by the former President Fidel V. Ramos (who came after President Corazon C. Aquino) declaring the NGC-East side area which covers a total of 238 hectares, open for disposition to bona fide residents through Proclamation No. 1169. This proclamation was made into a law by the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through a Republic Act No. 9207 (National Government Center Housing and Land Utilization Act) in 2003. A year later (2004), the NGC-East Master Development Plan was developed and approved by the Quezon City Council thru Ordinance No. SP-1386, S-2004. This was followed by the approval of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for R.A. 9207 by the NGC-Administration Committee.

Approximately, 20,500 lots are projected to be generated for residential use and were opened for availment by the legitimate residents. Determination of the legality of residency was based on the census survey conducted in 1994 and occupancy verification survey conducted in 2000. Both surveys had recorded 29,931 families belonging to different homeowners associations (HOAs). Only these 29,931 censused families were considered as “bona fide” residents who will be entitled to a lot allocation as provided for by R.A 9207.

A total of 298 HOAs exist in the NGC Eastside. Of this number, only 258 are qualified to outline their Community Development Programs (CDPs) which serves as guide for all land development undertakings in NGC-East in the coming years. It describes the aims of the proposed land use plan, the proposed spatial structure for the area, and proposed policies for land use management. This is also one of the pre-requisites in applying for the NGC Housing Project.

But for Arlene, the NGC seemed to be a failure. Although several government institutions like the House of Representatives and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), much of the plan has not materialized. The whole area was not used for the primary purpose of making it a hub for key national government offices, because the population in the area grew exponentially. Many have also grown tired and cynical about the housing project in the NGC.

 

A leader’s growth

Before, Arlene’s attention was only focused on the completion of their NGC-Eastside Project which was not easy. A number of problems have been slowing down the implementation. For one, residents have to reblock, that is, adjust their houses based on the approved subdivision plan and allocated space. And expectedly, many resisted. Even if families who are ready to reblock, they cannot proceed unless the owners of adjacent structures are also willing and ready to move. The people have to spend for reblocking, house construction, and payment for surveyor. The need to look for funds forces the community leaders of NGC-Eastside like Arlene to look for solutions outside of their community.

That effort to source out other funds widened her sphere of involvement. “Dagdag trabaho siya pero positibo naman, (It was an additional burden but in a positive way.)” she added. In 2008, ESBACONA Block 2 HOA became a member of the Urban Poor Alliance of Kyusi (UPAK), a member-federation of QC UP-ALL, and Arlene became its treasurer. Among her other tasks is to represent UPAK in the Housing and Urban Livability Committee, also called the Credit Committee, of QC UP-ALL. (The Credit Committee handles the Quezon City Social Housing Revolving Fund.) Arlene was appointed by the members of the Credit Committee members as the convenor. As convenor, she facilitates the meetings of the committee.

For Arlene, QC UP-ALL opened a window for her growth as a community leader. “Noon, mga problema at isyu lang ng aking samahan ang iniintindi ko, pero mula nang ma-involve ako sa maraming gawain ng QC UP-ALL, na-realize ko na ang aming mga isyu ay katulad ng o may kaugnayan sa ibang communities sa Quezon City. (I used to think only about the issues and problems of our community. But after taking part in the many activities of the QC UP-ALL, I realized that our community’s problems are somewhat related or connected to the problems of other urban poor communities.)”

As a leader, she has gained more confidence to stand in front of other people, facilitate meetings and give presentations. From the knowledge she gained from the trainings, sharing sessions and community exchanges of QC UP-ALL, she has also observed herself giving opinions and commenting on housing and other issues affecting informal settlers. Because of the richness of the experiences and ideas from the members of QC UP-ALL during formal and informal activities, Arlene has learned new strategies which she applies in her own organization.

An instrument of change

To help her members comply with the requirements of reblocking, Arlene convinced her organization to apply for a housing materials loan from the Quezon City Social Housing Revolving Fund. Their loan was approved in November 2009. Soon after, officers from other homeowners associations, who have heard about ESBACONA’s loan, started asking her for help. They requested her to give orientations on how to avail loans from the fund. She was also invited to give orientation on how to join UPAK and QC UP-ALL. Even the head of the Project Monitoring Office (PMO) of the National Housing Authority (NHA) in the NGC – Eastside Project became curious about the fund and asked her for an orientation. After ESBACONA Block 2 HOA, three more organizations – East United HOA, Kaakibat HOAand NAMAPPA HOA – availed of the loan benefiting a total of 60 families. Indeed, her involvement in QC UP-ALL’s Social Housing Revolving Fund has made her popular in the NGC-Eastside area.

Embracing her new role

 

More than 13 years after she was elected as president of ESBACONA Block 2 HOA, Arlene said that she has internalized her being a community leader. Although she admitted that she sometimes prioritizes community work over domestic matters, her family, especially her husband who also serves as her “top adviser”, understands very well her commitments and supports her work. Her friend and fellow leader Erlinda Fabavier said, “Alam naming na siya ay isang lider kaya naging masigasig ang samahan na gawin siyang president ng ESBACONA nang mahati ito sa tatlong asosasyon. (We always knew that she is a leader, that’s why we encouraged her to become president when ESBACONA was divided into 3 HOAs.)”

The unlikely leader is now convinced and is willing to learn how to become an effective one. “Maraming nagsasabi na nag-improve ako bilang isang lider. At sa aking palagay ay totoo naman. Dahil ito sa mga natutunan ko mula sa mga kapwa ko lider sa UPAK at QC UP-ALL. (People tell me now that I have improved as a leader. I feel it’s
true. That’s because I learned a lot of things from my fellow leaders in UPAK and QC UP-ALL.)”

 

 Box 2. About QC UP-ALL and its Social Housing FundQC UP-ALL is composed of   seven (7) city-wide federations in Quezon City, namely the Urban Poor   Alliance of Kyusi (UPAK), LCMP-PO Network (LCMP-PO), Urban Land Reform   Movement (ULRM), Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Inc. (HPFPI),   Federation of Homeowners in Payatas Estate (FEDHOPE), Alyansa ng mga Maralita   sa Novaliches (ALMANOVA), and Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Naninirahan sa Baybaying   Ilog Pasig at mga Tributaryo (ULAP). As an alliance, they advocate housing   rights and security of land tenure through savings mobilization, the   Community Mortgage Program (CMP) and other modes of tenur. Through mass   mobilization and critical engagement with the local government through   various venues including the Local Housing Board (LHB), QC UP-ALL resists   unjust eviction and unprogrammed demolitions.

Considered an innovative   strategy employed by QC UP-ALL, the Quezon City Social Housing Revolving Fund   aims to assist community associations needing funding for community-initiated   projects . It was created in 2009 through the Local Innovation and Leveraging   Fund (LILF) of PHILSSA worth PhP 2.3 million from the Department for   International Development –United Kingdom (DFID-UK), and the Asian Coalition   for Community Action (ACCA) fund worth PhP 2.6 million from the Asian   Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR). The fund was set-up to support   community-led projects (security of tenure, community upgrading or   livelihood) of the urban poor communities and was intended to leverage   additional funds from the local government and other institutions. This fund   is being managed by the Housing and Urban Livability Committee composed of   representatives from QC UP-ALL and the QC NGO Consortium.

 

 

 

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