Which 2016 Candidate Will Repeal the Lina Law on Informal Settlers?

As part of an ongoing series that focuses on issues rather than personalities for the 2016 Philippine General Elections, this short essay zeroes in on one of the country’s most chronic problems.

Among other things, the lack of rural development, as well as the constant attraction of urban city life, have increased the population of squatters in the country. The trend apparently started after the Second World War, when thousands of people from the rural areas had no choice but to settle within major cities to look for jobs. Since then, national legislation has tried, and often failed, to come up with a comprehensive implementation to house those who would eventually be labeled as informal settlers : it is estimated that they comprise 15% of the total urban population of the Philippines.

(Photo courtesy of Barry Ohaylan, davaotoday.com)

(Photo courtesy of Barry Ohaylan, davaotoday.com)

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President Ferdinand Marcos created PD 772 in 1975, which criminalized squatting; this, however was officially repealed in 1997. Written between this period is another official act that governs how squatters are treated: the Lina Law, as the Urban Development Housing Act of 1992 (RA 7279) is more widely known, requires that squatters be compensated by the government if they are to be relocated to proper housing sites, even if they primarily settled in privately-owned land. Taxpayers’ money, in short, is used to resettle squatters somewhere else. Worse, the Lina Law actually allows for squatters to squat on private land unless the landowners dole out the cash for them to leave.

The loopholes that have been created by both the Lina Law and the 1997 repeal has spawned professional squatting syndicates who extort informal settlers for “rent” in return for letting them stay where they are. Worse, perhaps through no fault of their own, informal settlers have been taken advantage of by both national and local government officials who often see informal settlers as vote farms, and who refuse to fully implement other Philippine laws on the flimsy excuse of “humanitarian appeal.” The Lina Law, which supposedly was enacted to diminish squatting, has in fact increased incidences of such. Thus, though squatting is a transnational problem, nowhere is it more stark than the major urban centers of the Philippines.

Here are statistics for several major Philippine urban centers with populations deemed as “informal”:

  • Baguio: 1,104 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Bacolod: 9,242 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Camarines Sur (inc. Naga): 5,730 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Cebu: 8,215 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Davao: 13,750 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Ilocos Norte (inc. Laoag): 774 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Iloilo: 7,319 informal settlers (c. 2010)
  • Manila (NCR): 140,308 informal settlers (c. 2010)*
  • Zamboanga: 6,256 informal settlers (c. 2010)

The demographics show a steady increase of informal settlers from a similar census conducted in 2007, and no doubt the population has increased further as of this writing. During those uncommon instances when laws are implemented to reduce the incidences of informal settlement, violence often ensues from both the illegal settlers themselves and the government officials who perpetuate their existence. It’s obvious that an implementation of the law is lacking, but even pundits empathic to squatters and supportive of housing reform in the Philippines have seen how defective the Lina Law is, and how it results to judicial impunity, extreme urban poverty, and environmental decay, among other things.

Republic Act 7279 needs therefore to be repealed, but which national candidate (especially from the urban centers mentioned above) has the political will to to attempt it?




* Former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo once quipped that the squatter population of Metro Manila may be as high as 25%, or roughly 2.7 million informal settlers.

17 Replies to “Which 2016 Candidate Will Repeal the Lina Law on Informal Settlers?”

  1. Even if you sorted out the retarded legislation, it wouldn’t make any difference because the country has no functioning land-titling system, and no legal system to enforce it even if it existed. Titles – especially DAR titles – are largely meaningless because they cover overlapping areas of land, or get withdrawn because the owner hasn’t paid the (minimal) taxes and fees. In any case, the country has never been properly surveyed, so it’s impossible to tell where any given plot starts and ends.

    As usual, there is no quick fix for incompetent government.

  2. Great – my favorite topic: squatters!

    Only a president with common sense can fix the squatter epidemic in Mega Manila and other urban centers.

    I recommend zoning. Define zones where squatting is totally illegal – like the Zaxxun Zones of Luzon:

    Tourists should stay within these eyesore-free zones to enjoy their “more fun in the Philippines” experience.

    Other options are – send them all to Basilian to fight the Abu Sayaf bandits. For every bandit they kill, they’ll get 1 square meter of land in the Spratlys. Let’s see what China does when their new islands get flooded with Pinoy squatters.

    At the end of the day – all your problems are solved. Laws don’t work in Ph – So just use common sense.

  3. It is a stupid Law. Whoever had authored it, was not in his right Mind. Lina, the author was “fishing” for votes on these squatters. He made squatting on private properties and government lands, legal. These squatters are even compensated, when you eject them.
    So the Lina (Squatters) law gives rewards to squatting on public or private land.

    Squatting is taking over private/public properties, legally.

    How do you feel, if I squat on your car, and claim it as my own; until you pay me a sum of money, in order, for me to leave?

    The law is just nonsense. Made by idiotic people, implimented by idiotic people.
    The President who approved this was an idiot.

  4. Of course, this law is something the candidates would not like to touch because the squatters constitute a lot of votes. That is the sad counterpoint to all this.

  5. Well it is definitely more FUN in the squatters LAND. Where you can litter and tihs everywhere you like. Wait there’s more! If you hurry now your land can be grab in a blink of an eye! So what are you waiting for?

  6. There should be no law limiting citizens’ movements within their own country. There would be no in-country migrations either, if there were sufficient livelihood opportunities in the provinces. This dilemma is where the improbable, (and puzzling) word, “Imperial Manila” may find proper application. Since all government authority and function, as well as all commercial and industrial activity are centered in and around the ‘Imperial Metropolis’, all chances and prospects for business and employment are sucked out of the provinces. This has made all provinces now secondary and subordinate to, and dependent on Manila.

    To this picture, add the fact that the ‘cartel’s’ long running rice importation and price manipulation had ‘knocked the wind out from the sails” of agriculture, thereby, making rice farming marginal at best, and the picture becomes clearer. Land reform was touted to be the answer to the plight of the (then) tenant farmers. This was not to be, however, owing to the ‘half-arsed’ program that it was. These tenant beneficiaries, now new landowners themselves, were left flapping in the wind without access to financing, without subsidies for farming inputs, without expert advise and without price stability, (subsidy) to ensure positive bottom lines. This made the farmers destitute and, left them with one last option… emigrate to “Imperial Manila” with their families… where jobs, hopefully, may be had.

    This is not meant to be a diatribe on the current mess that ‘food production’ has become in the country today; rather, this is about the squatters, (I forget the euphemism), that have made a mess of Manila. I doubt though, that either issue will be solved any time soon. Our leaders have their heads so far up their behinds.. all they could see is that they are so full of themselves.

  7. Hi MidwayHaven,

    I’ve only scanned through the law’s articles a couple of times so I may have missed it, but where does it state the following:

    “Worse, the Lina Law actually allows for squatters to squat on private land unless the landowners dole out the cash for them to leave.”

    There’s probably a provision in there somewhere that constitutes this, just not written verbatim. Would appreciate if you could point me to it. Thanks!

      1. To be more specific:

        Section 2: It shall be the policy of the State to undertake, in cooperation with the private sector, a comprehensive and continuing Urban Development and Housing Program … which shall: (d) (d) Provide for an equitable land tenure system that shall guarantee security of tenure to Program beneficiaries but shall respect the rights of small property owners and ensure the payment of just compensation.

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