Like in most sensational crimes, too much focus is given on the criminals. The victims, the ones that got hurt, that got offended, and sometimes killed, are usually left out. In some more depressing turn of events, the victims are even painted as the bad people.

With the increasing attention on the issue of informal settlers, most people and organizations forget and/or neglect the victims of the squatters,  the hardworking people that owned the land that these illegal settlers settled in and claimed as their own.

My family is a victim of these squatters. We have a tiny piece of land in Rizal that my parents worked hard for. When it was time for us to develop it, we found out it was overrun by squatters. We decided to let it go because we will be up against 200 or so families plus the government officials who let them stay there. Also because the Lina Law, or Republic Act No. 7279, Section 28 states that:

(8) Adequate relocation, whether temporary or permanent: Provided, however, That in cases of eviction and demolition pursuant to a court order involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, relocation shall be undertaken by the local government unit concerned and the National Housing Authority with the assistance of other government agencies within forty-five (45) days from service of notice of final judgment by the court, after which period the said order shall be executed: Provided, further, That should relocation not be possible within the said period, financial assistance in the amount equivalent to the prevailing minimum daily wage multiplied by sixty (60) days shall be extended to the affected families by the local government unit concerned.

That basically means the government has to provide them with a new home or pay the squatters before evicting them off the property.

What about the landowner, who compensates them? Who gives them a replacement lot? What about the dreams of my parents to have a lot that they can pass on to their children, or even build a retirement home on? Don’t we also have rights as citizens? Aren’t we the ones who paid the real estate tax year after year? Doesn’t that sound a bit unfair: we pay for the land yet someone else uses and abuses it?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why some people squat on land they don’t own, but it doesn’t mean I agree with it.

If you take possession and claim someone else’s property as your own, that is stealing, plain and simple. Stealing is illegal. Hence, squatting is illegal. Let us not fool ourselves with terminologies.

At the end of the day, squatters get a free house or some money, while the owner of the land gets the burden and the headache.
Who’s the victim now?