Philippines, Urban Poor Oppose Restoration of Anti-Squatting Law
Urban poor gathered before Congress at Quezon City, Batasan Road today to oppose House Bill 2145, This is a bill amending Republic Act no. 8368, otherwise known as the “Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997.” With them were the Task Force Anti-Eviction group composed of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pangligal (SALIGAN).
Urban poor groups portrayed Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelita Calimbas-Villarosa, the author of HB 2145, as a grim reaper. Urban poor people believe that HB 2145 is like Death, because it kills the housing rights of urban poor.
Jose Morales, president of ULAP said, “We don’t understand why she wants to restore the anti-squatting law. Does she hate the poor so much that she wants to pass a bill that would jail millions of poor people living in Metro Manila and other urban areas?”
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened during the Marcos regime, when he issued and implemented Presidential Decree 772 that sent to jail thousands of urban poor and their housing rights were suppressed. It took us years to nullify PD 772, so we will not allow the reinstatement of this law.” he added.
SALIGAN study of HB 2145, finds that the bill is an attempt to change the definition of “professional squatters.”
Atty. Jing Gaddi, urban poor unit coordinator of SALIGAN said, “The bill is trying to say that it will strengthen the protection for private land owners. However, it overlooks the fact that the social justice provisions of the 1987 Constitution limit and define such right to private ownership. Moreover, the bill says that if the occupants refuse to vacate a property within 90 days upon receiving a written demand, the occupants shall be considered professional squatters. This provision underhandedly broadens the UDHA’s definition of what a professional squatter is. What’s even more strange is H.B. 2145 does not prescribe any clear legal remedy for evicting said professional squatters.”
“HB 2145 has no basis in law for broadening the definition of ‘professional squatters’. In so doing, all urban poor will fall within the category of professional squatters and hence, automatically will be considered criminal. This bill also violates international covenants on economic, social, and cultural rights in which the Philippines is one of the signatories. We condemn, the attempt to criminalize again the situation of the poor through a blanket definition of professional squatter,” Gaddi concluded.
In a statement, UPA deputy coordinator Ted Anana said, “There are many efforts being done by the new Aquino government to provide decent housing to informal settlers. These will all be erased once this bill becomes law. We are just starting to plan the future of the poor and the poor are working closely with the government to reach the goals of providing decent housing for the urban poor as mandated by the 1987 Constitution and the Urban Development and Housing Act. Let us all be reminded that this kind of measure was proven to be a failure under Marcos. The number of urban poor increased. Jailing the urban poor because they are poor is not the way to solve poverty.”