As I See It

The truly marginalized and underrepresented


Only A few days before the elections, the Quezon City government exempted squatters in the National Government Center near the Batasang Pambansa from paying real estate taxes on their homes and stores. The government lots will be sold to them at very minimal prices. How lucky can squatters get. That is why Quezon City is called the paradise of squatters. And that is why squatters congregate there.

The Quezon City government’s move is obviously a vote-getting ploy because squatters are voters (attention: Comelec), and squatters vote like herds of cattle. They vote for whoever buys their votes or whomever their leaders tell them to vote for.

I am happy for the really poor squatters who would benefit although I don’t agree with rewarding lawbreakers, which squatters are. But what about the law-abiding lot owners whose properties have been squatted upon but continue to pay real estate taxes to the Quezon City government? Not only that, the city assessor regularly increases the valuation, and therefore the realty taxes, of these lots. The lazy assessor bases his valuations on maps, without going to the actual sites to see the conditions there. If he does, he would see that many of the sites on which he imposed high taxes are overrun by squatters.

As if to twist the knife further, the City Council passed an ordinance imposing an additional realty tax on property owners—to be used, it said, to construct homes for squatters. The city government has been collecting this additional tax for years now but not a single hollow block for any squatter medium-rise building has been put in place. What’s happening to these additional taxes paid by property owners?

As if to add insult to injury, there is no assurance that the squatters on private lots assessed the additional taxes would be relocated first. The lot owners may be paying the additional taxes for years but the squatters may continue to fatten on their properties.

Squatters never have it so good anywhere else in the world but in the Philippines. They picture themselves as “poor, homeless people” in need of help. Because of which there are many bleeding hearts who coddle them. Politicians not only coddle them but also encourage them. Every candidate’s heart bleeds for them. In fact, many of these politicians actually bring the squatters to their districts to vote for them.

There are many urban poor groups and congressmen who protect them and look after their welfare. There is an existing law, the Urban Development Housing Act, better known as the Lina Law, that protects them. Squatting has been decriminalized. Since its enactment, squatters have run amuck. Squatter colonies sprouted everywhere.

But are these squatters really poor? Open your eyes and use your brains. Pass by these squatter colonies and see for yourselves. The squatters have stores and shops and other business establishments. Many of them have four-story concrete and hollow block dwellings. Television antennas sprout like bamboos above their roofs. At night, vehicles of all sorts are double-parked on both sides of streets surrounding the colonies.

Think of it. The squatters earn a lot from their stores and shops but pay no rent to the owners of lots they have squatted upon. They do not pay any real estate tax or any business tax to the government. Sometimes they pay no electric and water bills because they steal power and water from the concessionaires. Some of them have two or more houses, renting them out to other squatters. Some of them steal electricity and power and sell them to their neighbors. Others have been given lots in relocation sites but have sold them to speculators and gone back to squatting. Squatters are paid tens of thousands of pesos to voluntarily dismantle their shanties and move out. But they reassemble their shanties somewhere else and the whole cycle begins again.

They say that crime does not pay, but in the Philippines it does.

It pays to squat here, although stealing somebody else’s property is a crime. On the contrary, those who steal are rewarded by the government for it: relocation lots, exemption from real estate, business and other taxes, free use of somebody else’s property, relief goods and laws favoring them. For one, I think the Lina Law is class legislation. It favors one class of citizens (and lawbreakers at that) at the expense of the property owners.

What’s more, the squatters have several party-list congressmen representing them in Congress. So they are no longer underrepresented and marginalized.

On the other hand, it is the lot owners who are marginalized and underrepresented. I am referring not to the big landowners (they can take care of themselves) but to the small lot owners—the teachers, clerks and other workers who paid for their 200- or 400-square meter lots by installment for years only to discover that squatters have occupied their lots.

They ask help from the government, national and local, but although public officials are duty-bound to protect private property in exchange for the taxes the owners pay, they do nothing. Senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, councilors all coddle the squatters because they are voters. In fact, officials of barangays, who are supposed to be the first line of defense against squatting, are the ones who bring in squatters to vote for them.

Going to court is too long, tedious and expensive. The small lot owners cannot afford the expense. And they have no party-list, no representative to look after their plight in Congress. These law-abiding, taxpaying property owners are the truly marginalized and underrepresented of our citizens.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=51653

Tags: housing crisis , Lina Law , nation , news , real estate , squatters , urban housing

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Anti-gay demo in Ethiopia cancelled
  • Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US
  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • Sports

  • Vietnam says it will not host Asian Games
  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Entertainment

  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • Marketplace