JACTA alea est. The die is cast. So says Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE, thus becoming an invader in Italy that started a war with Pompey and the Senate of Rome.

Fast forward to 21st century in Bacolod City; the City Legal Office might as well have uttered the same. Jacta alea est. Under court orders, it is now ready to invade the communities of informal settlers and demolish their shanties, aka illegal structures.

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In the crosshairs of my fellow court-annexed mediator City Legal Officer Josélito Bayatan are the illegal structures of 12 settlers in Purok Malipayon in Barangay 12.

Next in the firing line are families along Tangub highway, the 500 informal settlers in Purok Makawiwili, Banago, 50 families in Barangay 17, Villamonte, Purok Yanson in Mandalagan, Tangub, Magsungay, Alijis and other barangays.

I appreciate that Bayatan "appealed to the sense of compassion of the landowners not to implement the writ of demolition so that the city will have time to look for a relocation site for the families facing eviction."

But that in itself is admission that City Hall is unprepared to fulfill the rights of informal settlers for alternative and adequate housing or to come up with mutually-acceptable solutions to all parties in conflict.

Councilor Dindo Ramos confirmed that unpreparedness. He disputed the assertions of Vladimir González and Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. that there are available lots for 2,000 informal settlers in the Vista Alegre-Granada (Abada Escay).

Not that there is a debate on the unpreparedness from the opposing side of the political aisle. Both agree on the problems, and probably even on the proposed solution: relocation.

Why is the proposed solution always limited to relocation? Couldn't City Hall negotiate for on-site development where the occupants can buy the lots at negotiated rates among the major players: landowners' occupants, and the local government?

I helped settle a case in La Castellana on a win-win solution on an ejection case. The landowner agreed to retain the occupants, subject to their compliance with monthly payments. Failure for two consecutive months would make ejection final and executory.

On the other hand, it makes more economic sense for the occupants to pay the landowner on an installment basis rather than to relocate. It would cost the resettled occupants more to pay for the relocation lot and rebuild their houses - not to mention derail their children's schooling and jack up the cost of their commutes from home to job.

Ramos talked about "decent and habitable for the beneficiaries" but what is that exactly I couldn't for the life of me understand. What is City Hall's definition of "decent?"

No one talked about mass housing where the important feature is the relatively small space required because expansion is not horizontal but vertical. In fact, the Landbanking Committee reduced the issue to lowering the offered price of P250 per square meter. But that would still be horizontal expansion, where City Hall would need to buy huge land spaces.

With verticals, however, the sky is literally and virtually the limit. And the site could be located somewhere convenient for transportation and livelihoods. And not in the middle of nowhere far from schools and jobs.

I've seen the mass housing projects in New York as well as in Hong Kong. Then there are tenements and BLISS-housing in Metro-Manila. They all basically complied with the demands for affordable mass housing.

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