Housing, not Just A Right but A Fight

By Ely Jelvin Rabadam

Eviction and demolition is a constant threat to urban slum dwellers of Antipolo, Rizal. Families rent and built makeshift houses by the riverbank, with pieces of wood and metal hardly raising them over the waterway. Families here really have nothing.

With the endless struggles brought about by living insecurely, pursuing a safe place seemed like the best decision for those living in Barangay Dela Paz. Residents sought help from the Antipolo City Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO) to guide them through homeowners association formation and Community Mortgage Program (CMP) application processes. Reynaldo Sabanal, who back then was a renter in the area, recalled the story from 1992. ”Sinabihihan po sila dati ng UPAO na itanong sa landowner sa taas kung ipinagbibili niya ’yung lupa doon na pwede naming malipatan. Kaya ’yun po ang ginawa nila at pumayag naman po ’yung may-ari kaya tuwang-tuwa po kami,” he said.

Full of hope for a better and brighter future, these informal settler families arranged themselves into a formalized and legalized organization and became Riverside Homeowners Association, Inc. (HOAI). They pushed ahead with their CMP application, which was then under the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation.

Handling finances proved to be a challenge for the association as it became tainted by fraud and irregularities. Riverside HOAI is not immune to this phenomenon. Access to funds without much liquidity presents an impulse that some former officers couldn’t resist. ”Puro na lang po panloloko ’yung mga dating nakaupo na opisyal. Puro pera-pera. Naranasan ko po noon na nagbabayad ako pero hindi pala nila ipinapasok sa SHFC. Nagpatalon-talon ’yung record, may buwan na may hulog, may buwan na wala,” shared Reynaldo or “Rey” to his co-members and friends.

Unpaid amortizations, fund mismanagement, and other forms of corruption continued on such an enormous scale that by 2011, the HOAI was only left with P1,002 in funds leading to instability and mistrust of members. “Yung iba, hindi na nagtiwala, nagbenta na ng rights o kaya mahirap nang makumbinse na magtuloy ng bayad,” uttered Sabanal. Fortunately, 2011 was also a year of change: a time to elect a new set of officers and another chance for their organization to be better.

The HOAI elected Rey as president who swore to reform his association and led with transparency, honesty, and fostering trust. What was once inaccessible, he made certain to reconnect SHFC back to the associationofficers and members. ”Sabi ko noong ako ’yung manalo bilang pang-anim na presidente: wag kayong magalala, kung hindi pinapaalam ng dating opisyales kung nasaan ang landmark ng SHFC, ngayon pwede kayo magpunta doon at alamin ko kung paano magbayad ng maayos,” he shared.

Hope for Riverside HOAI continued to grow as SHFC made available a condonation program for delinquent accounts which the association availed straight away.”Mabuti na lang ang SHFC talaga mabait, binigyan kami ng condonation program. Kung hindi po doon, ang laki po sana ng utang namin. Kaya salamat po sa programa ng SHFC,” Reynaldo said.

With the steadfast passion to make their lives significantly better, he also appointed an auditor, Nelwyn Ocampo, who exercised transparency and disclosed the earnings and expenses of the HOAI. This practice led to a better state of trust from their members. “Gusto mo rin maayos eh. Noong nagkaroon ako ng chance ma-check at mapakita magkano talaga ’yung mga perang pumapasok at ginagastos, mas nahikayat pa ’yung iba na nagdadalawang isip magbayad,” Nelwyn said.

”Nawalan na ng problema,” said in chorus by Rey and Nelwyn when asked how things are after all the experiences faced by their association throughout the years. In fact, their success in fighting for honesty and trust over temptation and corruption has been recognized not only by their members but also by SHFC and other neighboring HOAIs as well. ”Gumanda ’yung statement namin sa SHFC at ’yung Saint Anthony Ville ng Angono nga po nakikipag-coordinate na sa amin at nagpapatulong kung paano mahihikayat ’yung mga miyembro nila na magbayad ng maayos.”

Thanks to the passion, persistence, and discipline of the new leadership towards the betterment of their community, 56 out of 58 Riverside HOAI members have fully paid their accounts. As of March 2021, their Collection Efficiency Rating also rose to 118.09 percent, leading to a more favorable loan standing with SHFC.