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…

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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Unfortunately PD 772 was repealed when Republic Act No. 8368, the “Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997” took effect. RA 8368 also authorised dismissal of all pending cases that drew upon the provisions of the now repealed PD 772.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.

44 Replies to “The problem of squatters in the Philippines cannot be solved by invoking ‘humanitarian’ appeal”

  1. 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…

    1. This land for shelter issue is the result also of Feudalism…the too rich, like Noynoy Aquino, owns, huge tracts of lands…while the too poor, like the Squatters, do not even own a single tract of land…even to build for a house…

  2. 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 GSIS and SSS have similar loans.

    As for the really poor people, there are programs like the NHA’s Community Mortage Program or CMP. Under the CMP, the NHA asks the land owner if they are willing to sell their property to the squatters and if they are willing, the government pays the land. After which, the government asks the entire community living on said land to split the amortization amongst themselves.

    Come on Mamon! Poor my ass.

    1. If the amount of PHP 500,000 is the value including the interest after 30 years, @6% PA interest, the loaned amount or principal is ~PHP 87,000.Or if the PHP 500,000 is the principal, after 30 years @ 7% PA interest, it will be ~PHP 3.8 M. I’m using the current Pagibig housing loan interest.

      For the media, they have this politically correct term for the squatters – informal settlers.

      My politically incorrect term for them – committed voters.

    2. Its kinda naive to think that squatters are even paying members of PAGIBIG.

      why pay for lodging you can get for free? Much more convenient to be a professional squatter. Free land, free electricity, in the most accessible and convenient locations in the metro.

      If they get a real house, then they have to actually pay for water and electricity instead of just jumping a line from the nearest Meralco post, and the places they could afford would be so out of the way that commuting would be too much of a hassle

      In short, there is no incentive for squatters to go legit

  3. “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.

    There is no “productivity mode” that envisions farms as agribusiness, that looks at markets first and the needy last, because it is markets that enable farming to grow and profit. And the needy to be cared for.

    The politicians support the humanitarian mode because it gets them elected, the media support it because it provides nice teary-eyed stories for the evening news, businesses leaders support it because it keeps the powerful on top by squashing competitive enterprise, and the general population supports it because they are . . . ta da! . . . so bloody persistently needy.

  4. 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 class.

    Productivity and efficiency here are only of second importance or maybe not at all. Our systems and policies are designed to serve the “needy” but at the expense of productivity–little do we know in this way we are only digging ourselves in a deeper hole. If we took care of the economic productivity first, it should take care of us later in return. But then again like Joe’s saying what Pinoy politicians and media network in their right minds would want to lose a vote and audience base respectively by addressing or shedding light on this matter?

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. Even in societies where the law is followed to the letter (relatively, since there is no such thing as a perfectly law-abiding society), there is ample room for humanitarian considerations and altruism. In fact, such societies are, ironically, those that exhibit so much more consideration, courtesy, and compassion even for the least of its citizens.

    The point is, Philippine society need not see altruition or humanitarian consideration and compliance to the law as an either/or proposition. Both can coexist. Perhaps the confusion is simply an outcome of lazy thinking or lack of imagination on the part of its leaders.

    1. Agreed as well. What becomes evident is the pure lack of personal responsibility and initiative on those “illegal settlers”. We can highlight the plight of these people, or we can give them a hand up. We just need to be willing to get our own hands dirty to get the job done. That means the growing number of thinking, educated middle class need to be more vocal in getting their opinions heard, maybe even exercising their democratic right, not to get the best candidate up there, but in keeping the worst of them out

  8. 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 may, its getting hard to feel pity anymore for the poor – In other countries, water-front properties are the most luxurious and sought after real estate. Here, they’re the property of squatters. Squatters dont live in the far-flung empty lots of the metro, they choose the most convenient and easily accessible (to public transport) places in Metro Manila – near commercial centers, major roads, waterways, and critical industrial arteries.

    Somehow it doesn’t seem fair that middle-class wage earners have to commute so far because they cant afford to live in prime locations but squatters can… for free. Illegal vendors get better locations than paying stall owners and jeeps and tricycles use intersections as their personal loading terminals.

    1. while i am of the opinion that we really do not need a law on reproductive health, i commiserate with you on finding it hard to feel pity for the poor, especially when they seem to do things with impunity, in the guise of being at a “disadvantage”. sometimes i feel that by sheer number, they are actually more powerful than the working class people. they have politicos at their mercy and are quite cheap at P200-500 per vote compared to the “pesky”, dwindling middle class who demand these politicos to actually work.

    2. Perhaps the reason why there is so much poverty in the Philippines is because Filipinos put so much spiritual premium on and grant so much moral ascendancy to the poor.

  9. 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 them… just like that. the litigation cost and all the demolition process and hassle has costs us a lot.. not only in money but even on our own safety. most people clearly see only the squatters “right” in those scenarios.. while the working landowner is left with his “right” unprotected, barely, existing.

    I have always had this anti-poor mentality. The “poor” mentality gives many an excuse to be lazy, to step on others right “so they can have homes and their families can survive”, so they can get many for free, and even justify their criminal actions because they were poor and uneducated. screw that. sadly, the media and politicians like these “poor” stories.. and the church making them more “blessed” because they are poor.

    1. Right. we should drive ’em like a menacing pests. We should ignore their “right to self-preservation” they didn’t deserved it anyway. They are not related to my royal blood so why do i care? They are not even worthy to be called filipinos. I think we should kill them all “poor” so we won’t have any “land grabbing” and “professional squatter” problems.

      1. They kind of are like pests. I mean how they leech of money. Example is when I was driving last night backing out of the parking at 1:30 am. There were no cars around and some guy was still trying to “help” me back up.

        Sure they have the right to self-preservation but they should find a real job. I mean with that argument isn’t robbing people justified since it’s a way of “self-preservation”?

    2. Agreed … when my Grandfather migrated from China here and his parents already passed away. He didn’t become a squatter. He worked hard as a young boy living in the freaking streets selling eggs. Unlike most of the “poor” who call themselves victims and complain when they are evicted in places they do not even own.

  10. “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. 😀

    1. From what I know about Christianity, Jesus doesn’t want us to be financially poor; that’s most likely why he always proclaimed the Kingdom of God.

      He however in the Beatitudes blesses those who are poor IN SPIRIT.

      Many of the people obviously approved by God in the Old Testament were wealthy. Job, Abraham, Jacob (Israel), and Solomon are good examples. If God wanted His “best” people to stay poor, would the scene from 1 Kings 3:5-13 have taken place?

      And in the New Testament, where Jesus mentions the camel and the eye of the needle, most rich people in that context are too much in love with their money to enter the Kingdom of God; they keep THEMSELVES OUT. The point is not that money is bad, but that the rich man’s focus was wrong.

  11. 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 Constitution provides for the principle of imminent domain, that means all lands here in the Philippines may be appropriated by Government if the common good requires and after due process of law.
    It is always very easy to pronounce judgment on the poor when we live on our ivory towers and condos. 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.

    1. Then why is it that these “immersions” seem to happen all the time, yet the poor are as ubiquitous as ever? Clearly that method doesn’t work, and whatever empathy the rich have are eventually dissolved.

      Why don’t we instead look at the perspective that in popular Pinoy culture, poverty is glorified and seen as “noble”? The truth is that it’s not. A lot of the impoverished seem to cling to some sort of mindset that an external force would help them out of their condition, and yet they don’t seem to realize that they can bring themselves out of poverty with little or even no external help. It’s hard to do, but it’s possible; I’ve seen it happen more than once.

  12. “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 sa squatter, karamihan sa kanila ay mga salot ng lipunan.

  13. 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
    with strong deterrents to discourage more
    of this unlawful act.

    On the humanitarian side, resettlement
    sites should be developed with support
    services such as health,sanitation,skills
    training,& credit mechanisms to
    make the resettlement project sustainable.

    We can adddress environmental issues
    through laws that prohibit littering
    & dumping wastes into waterways.

    These laws will be taken seriously as long
    as the citizens cooperate in its implementation by understanding
    the benefits it will do him as an individual/
    his survival & by creating a serious fine for violators.

    We can ask community organizations
    based in the US & elsewhere to help
    prevent unrestrained environmental abuse of their hometowns through educational materials to educate everyone from all age groups & educational levels about what they
    can do to fulfill their civic responsibility.

    Websites/films showing in graphic detail the state of the country’s rivers, forests, watershed,etc. & statistics can be used as aids on the subject of responsible citizenship introduced in the curriculum at every level starting with kindergarten.

    These educational materials will show
    what is going on in every city/ province & what the residents of that community can do
    to help prevent pollution & reduce global warming.

    God did not say “Go forth & multiply
    & suffer the consequences”.
    We know that.

    However, not all know it is okay to practice
    responsible parenthood or that there
    are clinics to help them plan their

    The educational system can be used to
    spread the correct message which is:

    It is okay to plan one’s family & to opt
    for a better quality of life.

    So, it is education, organized action,
    legislation,& a vigilant citizenry that
    will help solve our problems.

    It is okay to discuss & have forums.

    However,to see the changes we want, it
    takes action & using our collective
    brain banks/power.

    For those interested to join this
    grass roots middleclass initiative,
    please email me so we can
    start the process ASAP.


    Bayanihan Para Sa Kaunlaran
    MiddleClass Initiatives
    For Justice & Progress

    1. Hi interested in having this “Lina” law repealed. Am not a lawyer but I am convinced this law is even unconstitutional. Squatting is no different from stealing since he occupies the land without owner’s consent. Why treat squatting differently.

      Jun Ong, 09175388325

    2. I am going to save your info in my account. I would like to be included in this group. I have tightened my belt for quite a while now because I had to save enough money to afford a lawyer that will get rid of just one squatter in our land and apparently this one squatter did not just cost me over 100K it will cost a lot more once I start my ejectment, tresspassing ans squatting case against her.

  14. 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 dislike the pinoys attitude.Its 2012 now,isnt it time to do something???Force this lazy people to work,create “emergency”jobs.If they do not want them,let them beg on the street,and make that a crime.Let them learn the hard way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. 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.

  16. I was born and lived in a squatter’s area, although our family paid rent at the start eventually the owner refused to accept rent telling us that they are selling the land, and so we became squatters. Our parents instilled in us that we have to get out of this area but the only way is to be educated and get a job that pays enough to afford us into subdivisions or apartments. It was a tough journey, even when I managed to have worked in a stable company, i was at the bottom at of the ladder considering i worked even if i was undergraduate yet, and i cant afford a that subdivision. Even when i finished a degree and get a higher position and higher salary, the accumulated financial liabilities along the way while striving to study and support a family kept me from owning one. However, my children received from me the same dogma, to have a better education and get a better life. My eldest son finally was able to get us to the low cost housing unit we are living now. While this may still be a “hut” compared what the affluent are living in, we are no longer squatters. My point is that if we have the will to get a better life we really can but it takes time and hard work.

    1. Well you did a great job Sir Virgilio.I salute you!Sana lahat ng squatters maging ganyan ang way of thinking.Hope for the best.

  17. the real issue here is not humanitarian, otherwise what will be the use of legislation if the point in issue is helping the poor or marginalized establish their homes and abodes ? the criminal act is intrusion or taking ones property to the detriment of the owner. we have to respect properties as we respect lives and rights. the law says “no person shall be deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law.” the point in issue is the deprivation of the owner of his rights over his property. humanitarian concerns could go beyond giving them their homes and dignified life but not at the expense of others and to the extent of making them criminals. they could be helped or avail of people’s and the government’s help in many other ways but not in allowing them to take possession of properties they do not own.

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