Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'Informal settlers' or squatters? Call a spade a spade

Unfortunately for the hapless landowner, the Philippines is a society that likes to play the "humanitarian" card when it comes to squatters. Even the use of the word "squatter" has for some time been routinely dropped in "polite" conversation in favour of the euphemism "informal settler." Indeed, "human rights" activists have been quick to side with Davao City mayor Sarah Duterte, in the process becoming apologists for a mayor who, in front of TV cameras, launched into an unprovoked assault against sheriff Abe Andres, an officer of the Judiciary who, apparently, was just out to implement a court order. That, plus the convenient downplaying of what was clearly criminal behaviour on the part of the "informal settlers" affected by the demolition order who were throwing rocks and sharp objects at Andres's team and the police officers who were escorting them, is typical of a society where impunity rules.

Bottom line is that the issue of evicting squatters from land they have no right to inhabit will not have been muddled into idiotic debates that invoke "humanitarian" appeal had laws on squatting and legal use of both public and private property been observed from the very start. The problem with the way things are done in the Philippines is that small misdemeanors get routinely tolerated. And then more and more of them get tolerated until the pile of little misdemeanors gets bigger and bigger. We no longer see the small misdemeanors but behold the big pile of impunity looming tall before us and wonder, how this came to be.

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