Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
A man was killed and several were hurt when the police attempted to demolish the shanties of informal settlers, also known as squatters, in Parañaque City, Metro Manila last week. This was because the residents fought back against the law enforcers who were only trying to enforce the orders of the court that had ruled on the case of the landowners against those who had settled on their property.
One can understand the anxiety and despair of the homeowners who realized that, at last, their continued stay on property they had no right to, in the first place, was about to end. And so, when the police, who had to do their duty, came to implement court orders, they were met by stones and other projectiles, including waste matter. In the confusion a shot rang out and a man fell dead.
As expected, the police were the first to be blamed for the death, and things were getting ugly. But tests later done on the injury of the victim determined that the bullet that killed him came, not from the long arms carried by the cops, but from a small handgun that none of them possessed.
The speculations that arose were that someone had intentionally fired at the poor fellow with the intent to have a victim to be the rallying point of the protests against the demolition. Other speculations were that certain entities were making millions from charging the squatters rental, and these were the ones who would lose once they were removed from the site.
The latest news is that the government has temporarily stopped the implementation of the court order. But that could only be a reprieve of sorts, as the true landowner, who could not use his property for years, will surely revive his quest to get it back.
In the meantime, there will be no stopping of such informal settlers from putting up their sheds wherever they wish, unless local officials, especially the barangay captains, are alert in spotting potential squatters in their area, and discouraging or preventing them right from the start. They have the authority to do so, and are surely reneging on their duties if they do not act. That is, unless, they, too, are benefitting from the presence of such settlers. If so, the blood of any who might get killed in similar incidents as those of Parañaque, will be on their hands.*