Debating solutions to squatting


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presents a Presidential Citation to former Mayor Willie Lewis Brown Jr. of San Francisco, California, USA, after conferring on him the Order of the Golden Heart with the Rank of Grand Cross following a dinner Sunday evening (Nov. 13) at Malacañang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room. Brown, who is married to Filipino-American Blanche Vitero, served as San Francisco mayor from 1996 to 2004. (Benjamin Basug – OPS-NIB Photo) What is wrong with the picture? No. 1, the presidential seal is the wrong one, not the one clearly laid out in the President’s Executive Order No. 310 (for the right presidential seal, see the illustration here). No. 2, the breast star of the Order of the Golden Heart should be pinned beneath, and not on, or above, the breast pocket. No. 3, the President’s own Executive Order No. 236 (along with Memorandum Order No. 128) stipulates that the sash of the Order should be solid Philippine red, and not red, white, and blue.

In recent days, CNN and other media outfits have covered squatter shanty demolitions in Metro Manila. I am reminded of an article in Fortune challenging conventional attitudes towards squatters. Since you have to subcribe to read the article, here’s Community Involvement, which is a paper focusing on an example given in the Fortune article, the manner in which squatter colonies in Turkey have become thriving communities with their own local governments and tremendous strides in self-improvement. Generally, governments view squatting as a problem, and focus on evicting squatters to relocation sites, resulting in violence and corruption-prone urban housing projects. A more recent trend is to adopt Hernando de Soto’s view that squatters can be empowered (and made part of the Capitalist world) by parceling out lots and giving squatters titles to their tiny properties. In Slate Magazine, John Gravios challenges de Soto’s ideas. On the other hand, Tom G. Palmer defends and praises de Soto as having done “more than any other person… to increase our understanding of the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.” (both links from an entry in squattercity, a blog dedicated to the squatter issue).

What struck me about the Fortune article was the argument made by those who have studied the past (London and New York as squatter-dominated cities at one point in time), and the present (Turkey, Africa, etc.), and who have concluded that the goal should be to help squatters transform their neighborhoods into functioning communities, with their own economies and self-government. In Turkey, for example, economic growth among squatters has led to the tackling of compensating the original owners of the land, at a point when so many other lives have improved.

I am against squatter shanty demolitions because it is a cosmetic approach to the problem. People choose to live in a location for a reason: convenience, accessibility to work, etc. National and local government should accelerate the transformation of squatter areas into well-governed communities, the question of who holds the title to the land being the last priority. As it is, many squatters do pay rent, but the rent they pay is all they can afford, for locations only they are willing to put up with for the same reasons. Government could facilitate the direct payment of rent to the land owners, cutting out the squatter middleman, or simply embark on a policy of eventual compensation for land owners, from government coffers that benefit from the economic growth derived from steadily-improving squatter communities.

The Manila Times reports that the Palace has hired McCann-Erickson to manage its image in expectation of a “big push” against the adminstration in December. Things like spending 27 billion pesos out of the 35 billion pesos in recovered Marcos funds can’t help. Then there’s ABS-CBN, which clears Julius Babao. The Daily Tribune thunders that US Intelligence says the administration’s let two terrorist suspects off the hook.

In France, President Chirac asks for emergency powers to be extended; the dissection of events continues with Vatican Watcher comments on the response to the troubles by French bishops; BuzzMachine comments on the involvement of blogs and even manipulating search engine results in the whole thing.

The punditocracy has Max Soliven going great guns for Mercedita Gutierrez, the President’s Chief Legal Counsel, as the next Ombudsman. Dong Puno continues his criticisms of the Philippine National Police.

Tony Abaya continuing his analysis of where Communists have led the country astray, and takes particular delight in pointing out the late Renato Constantino and others viewed North, not South, Korea as a model of “development” for the Philippines. (The morbid joy evident in Abaya’s column are best balanced with the grisly outrage shown by My Favorite “Progressive” Blogger, who points to workers dying of overwork in factories as one reason she and others oppose foreign investments.)

Alex Magno continues to object to Federalism even as the Consultative Commission on Charger Change tries to find ways to pave the way for it.

Connie Veneracion has a thing or two to say about the tactical effectiveness of promoting causes such as the environment: when foreigners participate in protest actions, do they know what they’re doing, or are they just being used? Chin Wong has a meaty column on what the case filed against PCIJ and the Temporary Restraining Order on its blog really portends:

Whichever point of view you take, the wheels are already in motion. The online world, for years ensconced in relative obscurity, is being pulled into the limelight, a move that may soon set boundaries in a virtual world that once had none.

Oh, and a sports column. Recah Trinidad compares the President to De La Salle University and finds the President wanting.

The blogosphere has RG Cruz reporting on the budget hearings. Torn & Frayed says a country’s self-confidence is revealed by the state of the national railways.

The bLAWgs have Edwin Lacierda defending the wide-reach, particularly in the economic sphere, of Supreme Court decisions; JJ Disini, on the other hand, discusses decisions he objects to. An entry in the Philippines Free Press blog, concerning how cases were handled in 1939, might interest the bLAWggers.

BuzzMachine reports Andrew Sullivan has been absorbed by (and objects), cyberbaguioboy announces the Asian Gaming Journalists Association blog.

Two environmental entries: ExpectoRANTS on vanishing lemurs, and Piercing Pens on an ad campaign against captive birds (caged birds, like cut flowers, depress me, so hoorah for the campaign).

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Manuel L. Quezon III.

27 thoughts on “Debating solutions to squatting

  1. We don’t have an article called “Order of the Golden Heart”

    MLQ3 also no image.

    Memorandum Order No. 128 no link to the apendix that defines the rule.

    I realize that this is probably all correct after reading your previous articles on the history of the banners – flags and other items related to the presidency but all the links are buggy sorry…

    Who is normally incharge of something like this..

    I do remember reading once it was Winston Churchill who wore all his medals on the wrong side once, so everyone changed theirs to be uniform to him at the dinner he was hosting..

  2. the link is to the list of philippine orders and state decorations, theres no article yet on the golden heart.
    gov’t hasn’t put up the honors code or the irr’s online.
    the office of presidential protocol is in charge of things like this, it has supervision over the chancellery of philippine orders and state decorations.
    churchill was an old soldier, he most definitely knew where one pins one’s medals.

  3. Squatters part of the capitalist world

    Some squatters are rich professional ones if I am to believe the documentary trailer I saw forget where….

    Our informal economy makes some wonder if the so called catch everything evat would really be caught in the evat net.

    problem is they stay put even without the Lina Law

    Since I can dare say this there are even squatters in fort bonifacio some are former neighbors retired generals not willing to give up their quarters for the de,oralized junior officers and now they want to get paid to leave because they have the so called title.

    Not being self righteous but that is one of the reasons why I idolize my father (Plaridel Garcia) what’s up with the anonymity thing…
    he dared break the pakikisama and censure whatever from his
    co retired generals who wants to stay put because they desrve it daw!

    These are rich guys with house and lot in Ayala Alabang(some) yet they can’t let go of their deserved quarters

    What gives!

  4. MLQ3 Still no image at the top..

    Who hold the position in the Palace to make sure that the displays are correct is it a military person or just a PR person.

    In the case on Winston.. I cannot find the reference but I was sure it was him, I will find the person out and thanks for the correction..

    It may have been him who changed the side to suit the other person in the wrong..

    He was not just a old soldier, he was always the statesman and did not have any love for the Americans..

  5. To Karl:

    Is your father Commodore Plaridel “Garec” Garcia (Ret. PN) of PMA Class 59, who used to be PN Vice Com under VAdm Billy Marcelo, FOIC PN (Ret.) back in 1993-94?

    I knew a Plaridel Garcia very, very well and thought (still do) highly of him.

    But perhaps we’re not talking of the same person because I remember that “Garec” only had a daughter.


  6. a de brux: no, she does quite a few things right. that’s what’s even more tragic. plus she has great luck and tenacity, her opponents lack both.

  7. A de Brux
    We are talking of one and the same person…

    We are four siblings

    I am not always around with him on occasions here and abroad..

    My sister is the eldest,me second my late brother PG and RJ

    PG RJ are both autistic savants PG passed on leaving three of us..

  8. Hello Karl,

    Please give my very best wishes to your Dad and Mom. I knew them both very well including your sister. My apologies for not remembering that Garec had sons too.

    Last time we were in touch was some 6 years ago by e-mail.

    He and your Mom, whom I liked and respected immensely (I liked both of them), were my guests in France and if you mention “Iris” to him, he will know who I am. Your sister and I also corresponded for a while by e-mail for a while but we lost touched when I moved abroad.


  9. Thank you MLQ3 for the info. I agree, one needs a huge amount of luck and possess incredible tenacity to remain where she is.

    Gloria could be a ‘smash’, a great hit if she could only turn on that charming smile all the time.

    I first met her when she was elected senator or at about the same time I met Commodore Plaridel Garcia, Karl’s Dad, and even then, she could be wonderfully charming when she wanted to.

    She is a great hostess who has an unbelievable capacity to sound very sincere and charming. A woman can easily detect when another woman is just being plastic. Frankly, I think that she isn’t just being politically plastic all the time and that she is quite capable of being naturally charming and sincere.


  10. MLQ have to apologize was told it was improper to give details about yourself and considering you are the host
    again sorry Madami na akong atraso sa yo re: blogging ethics

    A de brux just gave regards to them and best regards
    they remember you god speed!

    sleeping with th… tried researching bout above but no luck ,peace sorry bout yesterday no harm meant…….

  11. “I’m not going to wear it until we get permission to wear it in the proper place,” Peate says. But many veterans have broken military code by wearing the Syngman Rhee medal on the left, he says.

    After the Korean War ended in 1953, Rhee awarded the Korean War Service Medal to troops that fought on behalf of the United Nations. Winston Churchill, the British prime minister at the time, refused to allow troops to wear the medal. Most Commonwalth countries including Canada followed suit.

    Instead, they issued their own medals to Korean War veterans.

    Peate says the veterans want the right to wear the medal on the left breast of their uniform, as an approved foreign award – not on the right side as a commemorative medal

  12. MLQ3,

    On the subject of heroes and medals, Filipino Overseas Workers make the country’s real soldiers.

    I believe they deserve a special commemorative postage stamp or a coin stamped with the OFW emblem (if there’s such a thing). Each and every OFW soldier returning to home base – RP – should be pinned a medal for valor beyond the call of duty.

    The 7 or 8 million OFW soldiering on in unchartered territories deserve this recognition.

    Why do I say that? BSP (Central Bank) sees foreign reserves at $17B by end of 2005; earlier on today, gov’t also boasted that OFW remmittances will top $10B also by year end. DoLE reported having deployed (that’s a military term) 800,000 workers overseas during the first 10 months of this year. That’s several armies put together – almost 6 times the number of troops Napoleon took to battle with him at Waterloo or virtually 8 times that comprised his Wellington’s army. Even the French Army today is composed of less than a third of this year’s deployed OFWs while the total of OFWs deployed worldwide is a little less than the total population of Belgium.

    There is no denying that these armies of OFWs keep Gloria’s republic, and by extension her government, afloat.

    Gloria can say all she wants but at the end of the day, it’s not her economics nor her so-called governance, not even her gimmicks (i.e., perceived foreign investments, US-Bush support, non-credible Opposition, etc)… that’s responsible for Philippine survival, – it’s the contingents of OFWs deployed by the Republic to unchartered territories that are responsible for the country’s survival.

  13. Going back to squatting etc….

    people say that the government does not have to pay for their eviction,they’re just there because they are needed for the votes, they don’t pay taxes they should not vote….
    some even question the Lina Law…

    very good proposal or opinion coming from a non implementor whoever he was

    back to my devil’s advocating:(this will go in circles..warning

    But what do we do..
    take the jeepney example:
    we think its an eyesore but where do we ride if we could not stand the line in the lrt..would we rather run to school or office…
    We don’t have infra
    the works like road networks farm to marketroads,nautical highways,bridge to nowwhere,uncompleted bridge,uncompleted airports ,and stalled railroad projects…

    but ahat for right when the people say that they would rarther than go back to nowhere…

    even our forests are overpopulated or misplacely populated…
    the landslides had many victims because people had their livelihood via kaingin and setlled on steep slopes a nd continue the vicious cycle until kingdom come

    land reform…
    Hey i gave you your share it’s up to you on waht to do with it..
    Who says teach them to fish then….
    they were taught modern agri 101 then left to their elements with nothing else to do but sell back to the land owner…

    Vicious Cycles
    Lets tame them first then make them virtuous

    as to how that is to the implementors I just propose…hehe

  14. One thing learned from this forums…

    As DJB said never take things personally

    and as I may have said but never do…

    Get life in that sack of salt take it one grain at a time

    we here opinions di naman pala seryoso sineseryoso natin
    dinidibdib natin nag advocate lang pala

    wag padadala or never be brought

    Este don’t get carried away pala

    You will learn that in the movie Flight Plan

  15. Squatting is a feature of all mega-cities.

    Yes, the informal settlers are taken advantage of and used by politicians (as voter bailiwicks) -and yes, the syndicates do make money from the rentals -but from a market perspective, and an urban economics/dynamics perspective, squatting is a “housing solution.”

    Because the formal housing industry does not provide for the lowest end of the market -for many reasons such as: a lack of incentives, a lack of policy directions, market distorting policies such as rent-control – the informal housing sector provides the solution.

    The sooner we understand this paradigm, the sooner we can begin the work of finding solutions.

  16. mlq3,

    Re. cut flowers… Cut flowers are at least symbolic; in the Catholic tradition, they are meant to be an oblation, a symbol of offering of life (to God).

    As for caged birds, the only symbolism I can think of is one of jails and jailbirds. 🙂

  17. Ah a poppy warn on Nov 11 is to respect all those that suffered in WW1.. I think wearing that is OK..

    In the case with wearing a flower you could replace it with a peice of rosemary..

    Rosemary the plant (Herb) signifies Rememberance.. So Cut plants, can be good..

    Birds in a cage.. Depends my pet bird used to be in a cage but only at night, Not cut wings, flew around the house, It used the cage as a place of safety.. No one would disturb him there..

    So it all depends on your outlook on the situation.. Flowers and birds can be good..

  18. This is not to question why cut flowers are depressing

    but some flowers get cut to be replanted I am again no expert on flowers am only using memories from TV and the classroom

    I think it was the santan or gummamela

    as to floral offering
    I keep on seeing obituaries of requesting refrain from giving flowers

    that does not mean that they are after your donations, they may be also depressed as well ,of course they are ayaw madagdagan ..ako nga bawat abot ng flower ng burol ng bother ko tumutulo lalo luha ko eh….

    I remeber one time I gave a potted flower to someone because ang ganda ayaw ko gupitun o paputol pero nung malaman ko mas inconvenient at parang naweirdohan sakin went back to cut flowers…

    on cage birds I am depressed too because in the case of love birds they die together one die ,eventually the others follow minutes later ..and those that I know that could stand to be alone are so noisy myna birds and parrots

  19. Re squatting, I know this is going to sound callous to some. But why do squatters get away with free housing because they squat in a certain place for a few years? Is that really fair to the rest of the lower-income hardworking population struggling in the big metropolis? Isn’t it a wrong signal to be sending? Not all squatters are urban poor, we all know about professional squatters. I’ve never had any sympathy for squatters because they are given special privileges by the government thru a system vulenrable to abuse to squatters themselves. No one sector should be given special treatment. This is not what the late President Magsaysay meant when he said “Those who have less in life should have more in law.”

    “We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
    Setting it up to frighten birds of prey
    Till custom finding it harmless,
    Makes it their perch, and not its terror.”

  20. re: squatting

    “I am against squatter shanty demolitions because it is a cosmetic approach to the problem. People choose to live in a location for a reason: convenience, accessibility to work, etc.”

    i have an aunt, 50something, single, and still working her butt off in the states and at the same time taking care of her mother who needs medical treatment there. she is looking forward to retiring here, but with the cost of living in america she could only save so much. she has a parcel of land here somewhere in quezon city, bought years ago with her own money, her only asset. she now wants to sell it, and use the money for her retirement, no more no less. but she can’t because years after she bought the land and while she faithfully have the property tax paid for, the lot is now populated by squatters who refuse to move out. in the meantime she has to work while at the same time she doesn’t know what the twilight years of her life will bring.

    now where is the cosmetic approach there? oh, the poor squatters, we don’t want them to move to be inconvenienced, won’t we?

  21. acid, i speak from experience. we had to sell land at a big loss because it was taken over by squatters. the choice, the broker said, was to start a fire to clear the squatters, or take a big hit so that a buyer would worry about it. We sold at a big loss.

    The solution of course, would have been not to allow the land to be taken over in the first place. Or to have been more entrepreneurial and not let the land go idle. In a more thriving economy, there would be a premium and no one would be willing to let their land go idle. And better security, etc. etc. etc.

    This doesn’t mean that people like your aunt should suffer, but people like her will continue to suffer so long as there aren’t enough jobs, people are poor, they have nowhere to live, and even if they can rent, they can’t afford decent places to rent.

  22. On squatters:

    Someone once told me that one way to evict squatters on one’s property is to ask the squatter for his building permit and if he/she cannot produce one, the owner should ask the police to demolish the structure (house or shanty) illico.

    Squatting is an international problem. In Paris, often one would see the windows of say, a third floor apartment in a nice building on a relatively chic avenue covered by and cemented with hollow blocks – a horrible feature – but property owners now block all possible entrances (doors and windows) to their empty premises to prevent squatting because the law in France is as lenient to squatters as the Philippine Lina Law is to Pinoy squats.

  23. In the states (at least the one I live in) you are expected to actively enforce your property rights. If Mr. X encroaches onto MR. Y’s property and Mr. Y lets it happen for a given period of time (the number in my head is 7 years) then MR. X can get title to that portion of land. Its commonly called adverse possession.

    We too have friends in the Philippines who have land and are thinking of dumping it because the cost & hassle of keeping squatters off of the land is more than they figure it is worth. That of course, is their decision to make.

    I like De Soto’s idea. I think a major part of what set America up for its greatness was the homestead act and the parcelling & deeding to migrants the lands of the West.

    A good portion of one of those old homestead properties is still in possession of my grandmother and that has really helped us out.

    The problem is coming up with a way to implement De Soto’s idea without setting of a stampede of squatters to claim a squattage and without inciting landowners to get too rough with squatters.

  24. That Willy Brown award is really suspicious. Brown was the most corrupt guy to ever set foot in California – the guy is an ex-pimp. Giving him a reward had to be some quid pro quo. I wonder if it had to to with his putting Phils back on the CalPERS list of acceptable countries to invest in? I bet it was more than just that. One more reason to be very suspicious of Arroyo.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.