09:53 PM June 23rd, 2013

By: Neal H. Cruz, June 23rd, 2013 09:53 PM

The squatting problem is getting out of control.

Even the government, at national and local levels, seems powerless against them. Or more accurately, is not willing to get the ire of squatters by relocating them. Reason: Squatters are voters. And squatters usually vote as a block. They vote for whomever their leaders choose. And with barangay elections coming up, it would be even more difficult for barangay officials to muster the courage and the will power to eject squatters. In fact, some of these local officials are the very same people who brought in squatters to vote for them. Some barangay officials (and even councilors, mayors and congressmen) protect certain squatter colonies because they consider these their bailiwicks.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II recently warned local government officials, from mayors to barangay (village) captains: Remove squatters from danger zones between now and the barangay elections or face prosecution. How much this warning will prod local executives into action remains to be seen.

Indeed, this is the best time to eject squatters because the senatorial and local elections are over, and so candidates need not fear the squatter backlash. But the barangay elections are coming up, and barangay officials, much more than the higher-level LGU officials, are dependent on squatter votes.

The Quezon City government has given squatters two months to move out or …. Seriously, if Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista can remove the squatters in two months, I will put his picture on the family altar and sing “alleluia” to it every single day.

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Similarly, residents of Filinvest 1 Village say they would do the same thing if Mayor Bistek will remove, not the squatter colony, but even just the double-parking on the private road leading to the village.

The road, Filinvest Road 1, which runs at right angles to Batasan Road near the Sandiganbayan and leads to Filinvest Village a few hundred meters in the interior, is a private road. A three-lane paved street, it was built on private land by the developer, Filinvest, to service the homeowners of the subdivision.

But like parasites, squatters occupied the lots on both sides of the road. Not content with that, they put up stores and shops alongside the road itself. Naturally, shoppers and suppliers park before the shops on both sides of the road, leaving very little space for vehicles going to Filinvest to squeeze through.

Besides the shoppers, the squatters themselves park their own vehicles—thus giving the lie to the notion that all squatters are poor. These squatters own vehicles, stores and shops, television sets, refrigerators, stereo sets, computers, and other expensive home appliances, yet they pay no rent to the owners of the lots they are squatting on, or real estate taxes, or business taxes to the city government, or income taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. And the bleeding hearts still call them “poor”?

After receiving many complaints from residents about the perennial traffic jams on the road going to their homes—a road built and owned by Filinvest, but which squatters have appropriated for themselves—the barangay issued a resolution limiting parallel parking on Filinvest Road 1 (as well as other roads nearby) to only one side—in other words, no double-parking.

There is a sign at the entrance to the road: “One side parking only.” But vehicles still park on both sides. Worse, vehicles now park diagonally—no longer parallel—perhaps to accommodate more vehicles of the squatters. (The barangay resolution does not permit diagonal parking.) Result: Only one lane is left open to vehicles going home to Filinvest, resulting in traffic jams on the road. Which makes village owners very angry.

Legally, Filinvest Road 1 is not a public road. It is a private road on privately titled land constructed by Filinvest for village residents. Therefore, the Filinvest Homeowners’ Association should have control over it and its security guards should direct traffic there. But barangay officials have usurped this function and are very lenient with squatters because of their votes.

As I see it, City Hall should return control of Filinvest Road 1 to the homeowners’ association. The barangay, City Hall, and the Metro Manila Development Authority which claims jurisdiction over all traffic in Metro Manila, should give support in managing the traffic, but the decisions should still be made by the owners, the Filinvest homeowners, through its association.

Look at it this way: The homeowners pay the real estate taxes—in Quezon City, the highest in the whole country—as well as many other taxes. These taxes pay the salaries and allowances of all City Hall and barangay officials, as well as for all city assistance extended to squatters and other city expenses made for squatters. On the opposite end, the squatters pay almost no direct taxes (real estate tax, business tax, income tax, etc.). Worse, they are lawbreakers, technically stealing properties owned by others. So why do they have more rights than the law-abiding, tax-paying citizens?

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Here’s news for fans of Willie Nepomuceno, the master mimic, impersonator and comedian: Willie will be featured tonight, starting at 8:30, on Channel News Asia (Cable TV 82 in Manila), in the series “Conversation With…”

CNA producer Maria Ronald said Willie Nep’s “frighteningly accurate portrayal of politicians and pop stars, which has entertained Filipinos for three decades, does more than amuse his audience. It gives them a view.”

In the interview, Willie said he believes his impersonations “represent the common man’s fight against authority, and that’s the reason he considers comedy a serious business.”

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