The problem of squatters in the Philippines cannot be solved by invoking ‘humanitarian’ appeal

But of course. Perhaps there is some merit in what a “human rights regional official” and the “officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines” assert in siding with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on the grounds that taking “the humanitarian point of view” is called for in this situation. This situation, relates to Duterte’s punching court sheriff Abe Andres after he acted on oders to proceed with a demoliton of illegally-built structures that were home to 500 families — squatters — in Barangay Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Sr. Suliman, Agdao.

Squatting is a huge social and economic problem in the Philippines, more so because squatters are protected by laws that make it difficult to remove them from properties they infest. Presidential Decree 772 (PD 772) effected by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1975 made prosecuting “squatting and other criminal acts” relatively easy. Squatting under PD 772 was clearly a criminal undertaking as Section 1 of the decree states…

Any person who, with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will for residential commercial or any other purposes, shall be punished by an imprisonment ranging from six months to one year or a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand pesos at the discretion of the court, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

And so, under Marcos’s administration, thousands of squatters were successfully evicted from land they illegally inhabited and jailed for their offense.

Unfortunately PD 772 was repealed when Republic Act No. 8368, the “Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997” took effect. RA 8368 also authorised dismissal of all pending cases that drew upon the provisions of the now repealed PD 772. It also directed criminal cases against squatters to defer to the broader “Comprehensive and Continuing Urban Development Program” described by Republic Act 7279, which stipulated sanctions that are applicable only to “professional squatters” which are defined to be…

[…] individuals or groups who occupy lands without the express consent of the landowner and who have sufficient income for legitimate housing. The term shall also apply to persons who have previously been awarded homelots or housing units by the Government but who sold, leased or transferred the same to settle illegally in the same place or in another urban area, and non-bona fide occupants and intruders of lands reserved for socialized housing.

RA 7279 however explicitly excludes from the definition “individuals or groups who simply rent land and housing from professional squatters or squatting syndicates.” These laws, in effect, make the process of removing squatters from one’s property a long and convoluted one.

Unfortunately for the hapless landowner, the Philippines is a society that likes to play the “humanitarian” card when it comes to squatters. Even the use of the word “squatter” has for some time been routinely dropped in “polite” conversation in favour of the euphemism “informal settler.” Indeed, “human rights” activists have been quick to side with Duterte, in the process becoming apologists for a mayor who, in front of TV cameras, launched into an unprovoked assault against Andres, an officer of the Judiciary who, apparently, was just out to implement a court order. That, plus the convenient downplaying of what was clearly criminal behaviour on the part of the “informal settlers” affected by the demolition order who were throwing rocks and sharp objects at Andres’s team and the police officers who were escorting them, is typical of a society where impunity rules.

Bottom line is that the issue of evicting squatters from land they have no right to inhabit will not have been muddled into idiotic debates that invoke “humanitarian” appeal had laws on squatting and legal use of both public and private property been observed from the very start. The problem with the way things are done in the Philippines is that small misdemeanors get routinely tolerated. And then more and more of them get tolerated until the pile of little misdemeanors gets bigger and bigger. We no longer see the small misdemeanors but behold the big pile of impunity looming tall before us and wonder, how this came to be.

It’s simple, really when one considers how the Rule of Law ideally applies to everything and all people — from the smallest ordinance and from the most ordinary people from the very start.


Post Author: benign0

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44 Comments on "The problem of squatters in the Philippines cannot be solved by invoking ‘humanitarian’ appeal"

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Hyden Toro

Just repeal the laws that protect Squatters. If you encourage people, to build Shanties on Public Lands and pass laws that protect these behaviours…Are we not encouraging Mendicancy Mentality? These Squatters; not only, do POLLUTE the: rivers; esteros; lakes; seashores; etc…some of them are also breeding places of criminals…I sympathize with the poor, with no shelter…however, the government did not plan for the increase of our population…due to the dogmas of the Catholic Church on birth control…

Paul Farol
There is little reason not to be able to own your own house. Pag-IBIG Fund, for example, gives out loans for as low as 500,000 and this can be amortized for 30 years. Yes, that is 500,000 pesos per Pag-IBIG member and so, if you are husband and wife, you can get as much as 1,000,000 pesos. That’s 2,777.77 a month. How much is rent in the city? Depending on the area, it can be as low as 2,000 bucks for a room (squatters area) or as upwards of 6,000 for a small apartment unit (depending on the area). The… Read more »
Joe America
“Unfortunately for the hapless landowner, the Philippines is a society that likes to play the “humanitarian” card when it comes to squatters. ” Please allow me to be blunt. The humanitarian card is a way of life in the Philippines, where being a sorrowful beggar child with teary eyes and hand out is the fundamental economic premise. Take farming. Why is it farming instead of agribusiness? Because it is run in a humanitarian mode making sure all the needy farmers have their own little plot of land, carved out of this hacienda or that, to grow whatever they can grow.… Read more »
Joseph G
Talking about “humanitarian mode” as Joe calls it that’s the way our transport systemn works. It’s not aimed to deliver transport service in an efficient way does it? Being operated by the private sector constituted by many small but disorganized firms/owners it more like serves as a big employment machine for millions of Pinoy that know how to drive who’d otherwise be unemployed if we adopted the international standards. As a result inefficient road traffic and fuel consumption.You could only imagine the oil demand curve in a graph shifting to the right pushing prices up as taught in your Econs101… Read more »

Repeal the laws protecting squatters! The only reason this law was passed was for the corrupt politicians to have a hold over the legitimate residents and people of their areas by coddling large groups of lawless people who would vote for them and perennially keep them in power for their own exploitation of any big money projects that come their way. More than 30 years of stupidity is enough! Real progress is severely hindered by these squatters and their political masters. Oust this evil! Reclaim our lands and our freedom from fear and injustice!


max soliven used to call RA 7279 “that ‘stupid’ lina law”…and indeed how stupid. this is a law that ironically condones anarchy in the society, and as usual, the tax paying landowner, whose family worked for generations to own a tiny piece of this earth, is punished because these so-called informal settlers are the local officials’ voters.

my, how i know the feeling.

i agree with benign0, and with joe america, with the “humanitarian card”. apparently, what miriam said about law is very true in this country: the law is only a suggestion.

Dr. Noh
Joey Lina, the author of that sad, sad bill is incidentally one of the more vocal anti-RH politicians who always plays the “savior of the poor” card every chance he gets, claiming that the money for contraceptives should just be used to buy food for the poor. Brilliant! why dont we just allocate more of the national budget to give more freebies to people who have more children than they can take care of? That way, they can keep on having more and more children that will squat in every possible inch of space in the metro. Try as I… Read more »
I can definitely speak from experience how annoyingly ridiculous is this “right” invoked by informal settlers whenever they are being ousted from the land they have lived and made money from which they did not own. And how our law protects these people. My family have worked hard since time immemorial, my ancestors being lawyers and businessmen, and through their efforts and continued efforts by my parents, we were able to own prime lands. squatters invade that land, though fenced, and basically constructed their own “buildings”. They rented those buildings to other people, even created a separate barangay unit for… Read more »

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” Psalm 82:3

I guess we should critize God too because he was tolerating them? We are anti-christ anyway. 😀

I don’t think it is fair to malign people simply based on their being poor. If we’re going to think about it no class in society, rich, middle income or poor should be looked down upon as if they are the only one’s who squat. In fact a lot of well built buildings, even those of Government do squat illegitimately. And this is more inexcusable because this is a flagrant use of power and wealth. Perhaps its high time people who own properties start thinking outside the box. Please stop thinking that real properties are absolute properties. Even the 1987… Read more »

[…] are occupying someone else’s property without any sort of legally-valid permission to do so. The decriminalization of squatting under R.A. 8368 in 1997 actually aggravated the problem, because it removed a potent incentive for […]

“Why not try immersing ourselves with these informal settlers even for just a week end…I guarantee you folks won’t look at them the same way again” One week lang? Ako nga limang taon nagrenta ng bahay na pinapaligiran ng mga squatter. They’re very noisy and obnoxious especially when under the influence of alcohol and making stupid small talk. Tapos iistambayan pa nila yung harap ng nirerentahan kong bahay which is annoying. They do have a different set of values and culture where laziness is okay and being an asshole is a virtue. Iilan lang ang mga desenteng tao na nakatira… Read more »
Mga kababayan, Okay lang itong discussion pero kailangan ang ibang hakbang. I’m sure there are a lot of middleclass landowners who have been dispossesed of their land on account of the “LINA” Law regarding squatting/landgrabbing. If you are interested to take action, let us form a group, compile all records of cases past,present/ongoing & submit these to Malacanang/Department of Justice for review for corrective, remedial action we rightfully deserve. We can also ask our respective representatives nationwide to create a bill to repeal the ambigous protective of squatters law to correct injustice against middle class landowners. Squatting/landgrabbing should be criminalized… Read more »

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[…] than propose a new law, I propose to reinstate the law made during Marcos’ regime, which is Presidential Decree 772 which […]

What The Philippines need is a new Marcos..The people in The Philippines got NO respect for anything,and hardly no one is willing to work.All they want to do is sitting with their beer and tanduay,begging for money on internet,try to steal money trough load on cellphones.They obviously think life is a big party party.Stop this stupid useless people,throw them out of squatter areas,and into jail.They do not deserve anything.I have NEVER seen so lazy people any place on the planet earth like the pinoys,and I have seen most of this planet.I live in The Philippines as a foreigner,but I really… Read more »

Every comment thus far sounds like indoctrinated rubbish. Not everyone accepts the “you have to work for a living” principle. Some people want to live for a living. You were born people and became a persona of slaves. Think for yourselves and you can slip free your burdensome shackles. Peace be with you.

junie munie

by the way that wasn’t joe the American it was dong the pinoy hehehehe


[…] from a different angle will de-problematize it. However, this issue reveals that some Filipinos still have wrong attitudes about poverty. Something seems to be dressing up the condition of poverty as something attractive, or as […]