PEOPLE’S Congress, a research network composed of UST and other local universities, is now ready to present to Congress a legislative agenda on different land issues.

The lobby effort is the product of a conference held last March 3, where the research group presented five cases to the members and a government representative, Assistant sSecretary Milo Ibudo, Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns.

Problems on fake titles, harassment, relocation, and demolition without con-sultation were raised by delegates from Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Pasay, Parañaque, Quezon City, and Taguig.

In response, Ibudo bared government’s plan to convert Clark Air Base into a city to help de-clog Metro Manila. He said key government agencies would be transferred to rural areas to support this plan.

People’s Congress, formerly the Filipino Solidarity Council Against Poverty, was formed by a consortium of universities dubbed “Lambat-Liwanag”.

It is tasked to address four basic problems of the urban poor in Metro Manila: palupa (land), pabahay (housing), pangkabuhayan (livelihood), and kapayapaan at kaayusan (peace and order).

Besides UST, other members of Lambat-Liwanag include Philippine Normal University, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, University of the Philippines-Manila, Polytechnic Uni-versity of the Philippines, Asian Social Institute, and Philippine Science and Technology Center-Baguio City.

According to Dr. Ernesto Gonzales, UST-Social Research Center (SRC) director and People’s Congress secretary-general, the poor are an easy prey to graft and corruption in government and the University has to respond to it.

“UST now had trail-blazed in this urgent social concern directly affecting the poorest of the poor in the metropolis. Working with members of Lambat-Liwanag, we have strengthened our concerted efforts to provide the scientific basis in addressing centuries-old poverty problems in Philippine society,” he said.

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Gonzales said another factor that convinced the network to pursue the project is the government’s inability to answer the needs of the people.

For instance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been unable to function according to the needs of the poor because of increasing population.

The Congress has formed two committees to implement the legislative agenda.

The legislative committee, headed by Gonzales, will deal with long-term concerns like technicalities and the structures of laws.

On the other hand, the administrative committee, is headed by land management expert Jess dela Cruz, a former National Mapping and Resource Inventory Administration assistant director. It has been tasked to deal with the immediate needs of the people and to coordinate with government agencies.

However, Frederick Rey, assistant researcher of the SRC, clarified that the group’s effort does not mean a dole-out to the poor.

“Lambat-Liwanag and the People’s Congress are just here to help them identify their rights, as well as to help in solving their problems on other people’s abuse of their rights,” he said. Elka Krystle R. Requinta

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