Sunday, February 22, 2009

Squatters’ law (or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992)[1]

By Siesta-friendly

Or the Lina Law for its author Sen. Joey Lina whom land owners have to thank for not only allowing squatters on their land but for requiring them to go to court to get them out. What a country.

The voters, ahem squatters, are sitting pretty and grateful for this gem of a legal provision:

“Sec. 28. Eviction and Demolition. — Eviction or demolition as a practice shall be discouraged. Eviction or demolition, however, may be allowed under the following situations:

(a) When persons or entities occupy danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and other public places such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and playgrounds;

(b) When government infrastructure projects with available funding are about to be implemented; or

(c) When there is a court order for eviction and demolition!

xxx [emphasis evidently supplied]”

Why differentiate between squatting on public property and private property? Appropriating someone else’s property is illegal. Period. In fact, private land owners should have much more protection as they are taxpayers: paying income taxes to the national government and real estate taxes to the local government. What do squatters have to offer? Cheap votes? Ohhhh, that’s right.

Meanwhile, local governments (can conveniently) allege their hands are tied when asked to clear private land of squatters because of the following requirements (also under Sec. 28):

“In the execution of eviction or demolition orders involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, the following shall be mandatory:

(1) Notice upon the effected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition;

(2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;

(3) Presence of local government officials or their representatives during eviction or demolition;

(4) Proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition;

(5) Execution of eviction or demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays and during good weather, unless the affected families consent otherwise;

(6) No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for structures that are permanent and of concrete materials;

(7) Proper uniforms for members of the Philippine National Police who shall occupy the first line of law enforcement and observe proper disturbance control procedures; and

(8) Adequate relocation, whether temporary or permanent: Provided, however, That in cases of eviction and demolition pursuant to a court order involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, relocation shall be undertaken by the local government unit concerned and the National Housing Authority with the assistance of other government agencies within forty-five (45) days from service of notice of final judgment by the court, after which period the said order shall be executed: Provided, further, That should relocation not be possible within the said period, financial assistance in the amount equivalent to the prevailing minimum daily wage multiplied by sixty (60) days shall be extended to the affected families by the local government unit concerned.


Local governments’ common response to pleas for squatter eviction is that there are no funds to resettle the evicted. And so the squatters stay put until FG shares his loot, uh, I mean until the government finds and funds a relocation area.

Just compensation is required for any taking of private property by the government. When it comes to squatters, unjust requirements have to be observed before you get back what’s yours in the first place.

To be clear, we do not advocate the MMDA’s heartless style of demolishing squatters’ homes, say, when they demolish homes during a typhoon. Regardless of their illegal activities, they also have human rights. But, in the absence of any cruelty in the manner of their eviction, they really must go.

Instead of focusing on unjustifiably protecting the urban poor, why can’t the government focus on developing the rural areas and uplifting the lives of rural folk so they don’t have to migrate to the metro? Why do we keep voting for leaders who don’t have the public’s interests at heart?

A lot of people call the Lina law stupid. Well, the citizenry that allows such a law to stand for almost 20 years seem to be no better. Could that be the answer to our questions?

[1] Republic Act No. 7279. An Act To Provide For A Comprehensive And Continuing Urban Development And Housing Program, Establish The Mechanism For Its Implementation, And For Other Purposes. March 24, 1992.


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