Squatting syndicates victimizing real squatters
Mayor Herbert Bautista is right: Squatting syndicates are agitating the real squatters on Agham Road into using violence to resist relocation. After seeing the concrete houses that were to be their new homes, with plenty of fresh air and space around them, many of the squatters gladly moved there. But the professional squatters and others deceived by the syndicates that if they resist relocation now the lots on which they are squatting would be awarded to them by the government, are resisting relocation, even stoning the policemen who they thought would start demolishing their shanties.
There are three types of squatters: the really poor ones, the professional squatters, and the squatting syndicates.
The professional squatters are those who make squatting their means of livelihood. They have stores and shops and can afford to pay rent on the lots they are occupying but prefer to squat because it is free. Many of them have shanties in two or more squatter colonies that they rent out to poor squatters. They steal water and electricity which they sell to their tenants at exorbitant prices.
There is a syndicate behind every squatter colony. When a colony is starting, outsiders will arrive to organize the squatters into an association, assuring them of protection from eviction. They collect monthly membership fees of P500 to P1,000 from each family, threatening eviction from the colony if anyone protests. There is no accounting of these membership dues, which just disappear into the pockets of syndicate members.
The syndicates have lawyers and enforcement teams composed of former soldiers and policemen, some of whom still carry their service firearms.
Property owners who are victims of squatters are powerless against these syndicates because local government officials and the police don’t help them eject the squatters or even prevent new ones from coming in. Many barangay officials come from the ranks of squatters. Mayors and councilors protect the squatters because these are their voters. In fact, most of these squatters were brought in by these officials when they were still candidates, to vote for them. Squatting is becoming worse because of politics and politicians.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas is right in threatening local government officials of eviction from their government positions if they cannot rid the banks of esteros, creeks and rivers of squatters.
But mark my words: After the waterways are cleared of squatters to save them from drowning and the sun is shining again and another election is coming, the squatters will slowly and surreptitiously come back and local government officials will do nothing to stop them. Then the whole cycle will be repeated.
* * *
The court battle against the oil giant Chevron and the small, family-owned Petroleum Distributors and Services Corp. (PDSC) will test the mettle of the Oil Deregulation Law. It is like David battling Goliath, but the law is clearly on the side of David.
The Oil Deregulation Law was passed precisely to break the monopoly of the big oil cartels and to allow small companies to compete in a free market. One of the practices prohibited by the law is predatory pricing. And this is exactly what Chevron is doing, according to the suit of PDSC.
The Filipino-owned PDSC has been in the business of retailing fuel products for almost 50 years, and was a Caltex dealer for more than 20 years. Its suit is the first such case filed by a local gas dealer against a foreign oil giant.
According to PDSC, Chevron, a subsidiary of Caltex, has been previously limited to supplying fuel products to its local dealers for sale to the buying public.
But in 2003, Chevron organized another company, Chevron Services Philippines (Chevron Services), and amended its corporate papers to include the authority to engage in retail and operate its own service stations called Caltex COCOs throughout Metro Manila. These COCOs are located in the same areas where there are also existing Caltex service stations but are operated by local dealers owned by Filipinos, such as PDSC. This practice, however, was condoned by the Department of Energy.
Records show that from 2003 to 2007, Chevron and Chevron Services were owned by the same foreign stockholders and run by the same individual directors and officers. The operation of the COCOs has enabled Chevron to fix the prices of fuel products as one of the main suppliers in the country and, at the same time, fix the prices at the pump level for the end-users.
PDSC said that having the ability to set the prices of fuel at both ends, supply and retail, Chevron has created a scheme that enabled it to influence the drop or increase of fuel prices through its COCOs. Chevron restrained free competition by giving preferential treatment to its COCOs in terms of pricing, to the detriment of local Caltex dealers, whose profits depend entirely on the price of fuel supplied by Chevron.
* * *
REMINDERS to music lovers:
Nonoy Zuñiga’s reunion concert with the FBC Rebirth (formerly Family Birth Control) at the RJ Bistro, Dusit Thani hotel, is tomorrow, Saturday, starting at 8:30 p.m.
Nonoy was the lead singer of Family Birth Control before a bomb explosion at the concert venue led to the amputation of one of his legs.
Meanwhile, Margaux Salcedo’s concert at the Tap Room, Manila Hotel, is on Thursday, July 11, starting at 9:30 p.m.
Margaux revives the song favorites of yesteryear in her lovable singing style. With her songs, memories of love and romance when they were young are revived among the golden oldies. The young ones should acquaint themselves with the beautiful songs of old. In my opinion, the best songs were composed and written in the ’50s and ’60s. Listen to Margaux sing them.