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POSITION PAPER OF THE HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL ON HOUSE BILLS NO.

2145 AND 4101, RESPECTIVELY INTRODUCTION Presidential Decree No. 772 dated 20 August 1975 which penalizes any person who, with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will for residential commercial or any other purposes, was expressly repealed upon the enactment of Republic Act No. 8368, otherwise known as the Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997 on 27 October 1997. The rationale in repealing the Anti-Squatting Law was clearly enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Tuates vs. Bersamin (G.R. No. 138962, 04 October 2002): The legislature considered it a major piece of legislation on the countrys anti-poverty program as it sought to confront the perennial problem of poverty at its root, abolish an otherwise inutile and oppressive law, and pave the way for a genuine urban housing and land reform program xxx Xxx The law is not intended to compromise the property rights of legitimate landowners. Recourse may be had in cases of violation of their property rights, such as those provided for in Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, penalizing professional squatters and squatting syndicates as defined therein, who commit nefarious and illegal activities; the Revised Penal Code providing for criminal prosecution in cases of Trespass to Property, Occupation of Real Property or Usurpation of Real Rights in Property, and similar violations, and, cases for Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer under the Rules of Court, as well as civil liability for Damages under the Civil Code. Truth be told, the noble intention of the legislature in repealing the aforestated law has been undermined, if not reduced into a complete mockery. The goal of achieving genuine urban housing and land reform has been greatly retarded by the abuses of professional squatters and squatting syndicates (PSSS) who have taken advantage of the seeming de-criminalization of their activities. Without a doubt, a re-assessment of the applicable laws and policies on PSSS is in order.

On House Bill No. 2145, entitled: An Act Amending Republic Act No. 1

8368, Otherwise Known As the Anti-Squatting Law Repeal Act of 1997 By: Rep. Amelita Calimbas-Vilarosa Salient Feature of the House Bill The bill proposes to amend Section 4 of Republic Act No. 8368 to read: Section 4. Effect on Republic Act No. 7279 Nothing herein shall be construed to nullify, eliminate, or diminish in any way Section 27 of Republic Act No. 7279 or any of its provisions relative to sanctions against professional squatters and squatting syndicates. Provided, that any person or group of persons who, with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will, and, having received a written demand to either vacate or pay rent from said landowner, shall refuse to do so within a period of ninety (90) days, shall be considered a professional squatter within the purview of Republic Act No. 7279. Comment: The amendment proposed by the Honorable Representative is similar to the repealed Section 1 of Presidential Decree No. 772. The said proposal would greatly impact the prosecution of professional squatters as it opens up the definition of professional squatter as provided in the UDHA of 1992 by including in the said definition any illegal occupant who has received notice and refused to vacate the property after the expiration of ninety (90) days from receipt of the same. The consequence is that by sending the written notice under the proposed bill, an illegal occupant instantly becomes a candidate for prosecution under Section 27 of the UDHA even if the person does not necessarily fall under the definition of professional squatter as originally provided for in the UDHA. Thus, the result would be an implied amendment and/or expansion of the definition of the term professional squatter under RA 7279. On House Bill No. 4101, entitled: An Act To Institute Reforms in the Governments Drive Against Professional Squatters and 2

Squatting Racketeers Syndicates, Strengthening Mechanisms therefor, and other purposes By: Rep. Amado S. Bagatsing Salient Features of the House Bill

or the for

1. Insertion of a new paragraph, which provides: a.) a definition of Illegal Business of Squatter Housing; b.) classifying the offense as Economic Sabotage, and; c.) providing criminal liability for principals, accomplices and accessories and in cases of juridical entities. Comment: The definition of Illegal Business Housing will be of great utility in the prosecution of members of squatting syndicates as it spells out in no uncertain terms the act(s) constituting the offense. The term Economic Sabotage generally pertains to unsavory acts and unfair trade practice that result into widespread negative impact to the economy. Economic Sabotage, as used in R.A. 80421 and P.D. 16892, increased the imposable penalties for certain offenses when the same is committed by a syndicate or a group of persons. Likewise, the proposed bill seeks to impose higher penalties for those who are engaged in the business of squatter housing. Providing for levels of criminal liability is a welcome proposal, which will be generally useful in case of litigation. 2. Adding the phrase: WHETHER FINANCIAL OR POLITICAL GAIN Comment: The proposal is a recognition of the non-fiscal motivations of certain characters who may be assisting PSSS in their operations. 3. Requiring the active participation of the LGUs in the action against PSSS -proposing that the CONCERNED local government units AND/OR the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) xxX Comment: Engaging the LGU in the fight against PSSS is very crucial because they are in the best position to identify these elements which are actually operating within their territorial jurisdiction. Moreover, when cases reach litigation, the
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Migrant and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 Increasing the Penalty for Certain Forms of Swindling or Estafa

LGU will enjoy geographical convenience in ensuring the active pursuit and monitoring of the cases. 4. Increasing the penalties for PSSS and Squatting Racketeers Comment: Increasing the penalties to levels beyond what is covered by the mandatory right to bail provides a good deterrent to those who are engaged or is about to engage in PSSS activities. 5. Enumeration of Prima Facie evidence against PSSS Comment: The enumeration will be very useful in prosecuting PSSS. 6. On Venue and Mandatory Periods Comment: To be discussed by the Department of Justice 7. Prescriptive Period of Twenty (20) years Comment: The reckoning point must be clarified. 8. Free Legal Assistance Comment: This will undeniably encourage witnesses in providing testimonies necessary for litigation. 9. Prohibition Against New Illegal Structures Comment: A penalty may also be imposed herein.

Proposed Provisions 1. There must be a special prosecutor/task force designated by the Secretary of Justice who shall be primarily charged with the duty of enforcing or carrying out the provisions of the draft house bill.

2. In addition to penalties imposed upon the members of squatting syndicates and squatting racketeer/s, forfeiture of the proceeds from illegal activity must be done in favor of the Philippine Government. 3. The court entering the judgment of conviction and forfeiture, upon finality of the decision, shall hear petitions by victims of PSSS activity for restitution of property or compensation. The court may order portions of the proceeds of forfeiture be paid to the victims. Victims may either be the land owner upon whose property illegal dwellings were erected or the informal settlers who believed in good faith that they purchased the land from the real owners. In line with the States declared policy in alleviating the condition of the underprivileged and the homeless, there is a need to reassess the existing antisquatting laws to ensure that PSSS do not impede the governments efforts in providing decent shelter and security of tenure. Thus, the above-mentioned proposed inclusions and modifications in the draft house bills are hereby submitted for discussion and further study of the Committee.

Prepared by:

CECILIA S. ALBA Secretary General