Indirectly soliciting votes-A A +A
Thursday, March 21, 2013
I HATE to see our own kind squatting in our land. Illegal settling is an age-old problem associated with urbanization. People migrate to the big city hoping for a better life, only to find their lives ending up in limbo.
Informal settlers, as squatters are being glamorized now, occupy unattended or empty private lots in the city. In most instances, they occupy sidewalks, alleys, road right-of-way, and government lands.
During martial law, squatting was a crime and was penalized under PD 772. But on December 27, 1997, RA 8368 was passed during then president Cory Aquino’s time, repealing PD 772 and decriminalizing squatting.
Although RA 8368 decriminalized squatting, it did not encourage or protect acts of squatting on privately owned land and government properties. This law was also never meant to jeopardize the rights of legitimate landowners.
Demolition is discouraged under RA 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. But this “Lina Law,” authored by former senator Joey Lina, also provides for remedies to landowners.
We all know that elected national or local officials are under oath to execute or implement the laws of the land, as well as ordinances.
Recently, the widening by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of Salinas Drive in Lahug was stopped when Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon intervened on behalf of the 27 affected families squatting on the road right-of way.
In this election period, those to be evicted from the lands they are occupying know where to go to: the politicians. Councilor Dizon’s intervention may be good in the eyes of the informal settlers but was an affront to our laws. It’s tantamount to indirectly soliciting votes.
DPWH district engineer Nicomedes Leonor sent a notice to the 27 affected families that their houses have obstructed the right-of-way of a national road and should be demolished.
Section 23 of the Revised Philippine Highway Act (PD No. 17) provides that “it shall be unlawful for any person to usurp any portion of a right-of-way to convert any part of any public highway, bridge, wharf or trail to his own private use or to obstruct the same in any manner.”
Even the Lina Law allows eviction of informal settlers when government infrastructure projects are to be implemented or when the settlers occupy roads, sidewalks, parks, etc.
But who is Leonor to say no to the request of Councilor Dizon? The latter allegedly dropped the name of Rep. Tomas Osmeña when he talked with Leonor. Reports have it that the road widening will wait until after the May 13 polls. What a shame!
Team Rama could not also oppose the move of Dizon. With the forthcoming elections, it would be a suicide for them to do so. But Dizon and his party mates at the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan are already assured of the votes from the 27 families.
Conversely, the demolition attempt could only be a “moro-moro” so that the 27 families would approach Dizon and make an issue out of it. Otherwise, the 27 families should have approached the city mayor instead of the councilor.
Well, its election time so expect the unexpected. Candidates would do anything just to win votes. But it is my fervent wish that politicians would not go to the extent of employing extra-legal means to win.
I think Dizon is guilty of violating the laws, rules and regulations that he is duty bound to obey and enforce them when he prevented the DPWH from implementing the road widening work at Salinas Drive.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 22, 2013.