THE Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it will tap the Department of Justice (DOJ) instead of the local government units (LGUs) in filing cases against professional squatters and squatting syndicates operating in the metropolis.

MMDA Chairman Oscar Inocentes said this is part of the “toughened” provisions that the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee on Informal Settlers (MMIAC) will get once the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) finally gets approved by the committee.

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The IRR framework will govern the implementation of the Comprehensive Shelter Program (CSP) in the National Capital Region, the MMDA chairman said.

“When everything is finalized, it will be the DOJ, through its provincial, municipal and city fiscals’ office, which will handle the prosecution of the illegal squatters. This way, we will be able to deal with squatters effectively and swiftly and move forward towards providing housing for qualified beneficiaries,” Inocentes said.

The official said instead of the LGUs concerned, the DOJ would be the one to pursue the filing of charges against professional squatters or squatting syndicates who negate the government efforts to provide housing projects to underprivileged and homeless families.

The committee earlier said some politicians it did not identify are coddling squatters in return for their votes in the elections.

The MMDA said the number of informal settlers in 2009 had ballooned to 517,175 families based on the submitted list by 13 out of 17 LGUs in Metro Manila.

Of the 517,175 informal settlers, the biggest chunk, 232,123 families were living in government owned lands, 173,536 families from private-owned lands, 81628 families from danger areas, 16,890 from areas for priority development, and 11,866 families from areas affected by government priority projects.

The figure could swell, the MMDA admitted once the updated figures from the rest of the LGU are passed to the MMIAC.

The committee also agreed to change the schedule of its meeting to last Friday of each month, not quarterly as originally suggested, to fast-track the implementation of the its plans and programs.

The MMIAC is composed of the MMDA as the lead agency, the National Housing Authority (NHA) as vice chairman, and other member agencies such as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government, Caritas Manila Housing Ministry, National Urban Poor Sectoral Council, and other agencies attached to the Office of the President.

MMIAC is the creation of the Executive Order 803 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on May 21, 2009 to carryout housing and resettlement of homeless citizens. (AH/Sunnex)