Was it because it was said in Tagalog? Or was it because popular celebrity babe Bianca Gonzalez (with a “z” at the end) tweeted it? Whatever the reason, an outrage fad was born yet again after the modelling and social media superstar let out this gem on Twitter:
Ang dami nating nagtatrabaho para makaipon para sa prime lot at bahay plus buwis pa. Bakit nga ba bine-baby ang mga informal settlers?
“So many people working hard to save to buy a house on prime land while paying their taxes. Why do we have to baby these informal settlers?”
It is an old concept. The simple principle behind Gonzalez’s tweet is rule of law and everyone — whether rich or poor — being subject to it. Quite simply, squatters live on land funded by the hard work of somebody else and put a strain on public works and services funded by somebody else’s tax money. I elaborated on this in a previous article Land ownership Hell: The Philippines is Squatter Central when it comes to government subsidies!. This being the Philippines which aspires to be a First World nanny state (despite lacking the cash to achieve that quaint aspiration), applicable laws to combat squatter infestation have been reduced to toothless drivel since the fall of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
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Unfortunately PD 772 was repealed when Republic Act No. 8368, the “Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997” took effect. RA 8368 also authorised dismissal of all pending cases that drew upon the provisions of the now repealed PD 772.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.
Well, we sow what we reap, don’t we?
Metro Manila is now a pigsty of a city. Squatters routinely deposit their household sewage into the Pearl of the Orient’s once picturesque esteros. The illegal structures they erect, have long been seen as the single biggest urban blight that contributes significantly to the problem of flooding in the Philippines’ wretched capital. Add to that too all the other illegally-erected structures of businesses backed by local politicians, such as the fish pens that proliferate all over Laguna de Bay. The aroma of raw sewage that engulfs the country’s premier metropolis is unmistakable during the wet season. And during the dry season, the thought of open sewers and where the thick ubiquitous clouds of dust that hang over the city 24 hours a day comes from is enough to discourage anyone from eating ice cream on a cone outdoors.
But because Bianca Gonzalez is a celebrity and because the starstruck society in which she makes her living expects its celebrities to be a “compassionate” bunch, Gonzalez’s tweet made waves. On the venerable pages of that exemplar of journalistic integrity Remate, can now be found the collective expression of indignation of the Filipino underclass…
“Kailangan maunawaan ni Bianca ang tunay na ugat ang urban poverty at squatting problem sa bansa. Ito ay isang social responsibility ni Bianca at ng iba pang journalist na tagapag-timon ng public opinion sa bansa,” ani [Gloria Arellano, KADAMAY national chairperson].
Inaasahan ng grupo na pagtatanong lamang ang naging komento ni Bianca. Nakahanda umanong maglinaw ang KADAMAY at sagutin kung talagang bini-baby ng gubyerno ang mga informal settler.
“Pam-bibaby bang maituturing ang libu-libong maralitang pamilyang na itinaboy ng gubyernong Aquino sa panahon ng kanyang panunungkulan at pagdanas nila ng pandarahas ng estado mula sa sapilitang paggiba ng kanilang tahanan, pagkakakulong, pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso hanggang at pagmamaslang sa 13 maralitang tumututol sa demolisyon?” tanong ni Arellano.
Translating the above to the lingua franca of the 21st Century…
“Bianca needs to understand the real roots of urban poverty and the country’s squatting problem. This is a social responsibility of hers and other journalists who shape public opinion.” says Gloria Arellano, KADAMAY national chairperson.
The KADAMAY group (an acronym for the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Confederation for Solidarity Among the Impoverished) hopes that Bianca merely tables a rhetorical question. The KADAMAY group is ready to clarify whether the government is indeed coddling the informal settler community.
“Can we even regard as ‘babying’ the state’s violent demolition of homes, the imprisonment and filing of cases against the 13 who protested this demolition which transpired under the government of President Aquino?” asks Arellano.
Gonzalez has since reportedly expressed to Vencer Crisostomo (chairperson of leftist militant group Anakbayan) her intention to initiate talks with the aggrieved parties.
[Photo courtesy AllStarPics.net.]