Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of eviction and demolition: A tale of 2 cities and RA 7279

The recent news about the mayor of Davao City raining fists and fury on a hapless sheriff because of his refusal to wait for “Inday Sara” Duterte to arrive before ordering the demolition of the houses in a shanty town brought flurries of comments and reactions both negative and positive. The demolition was made due to a court order.

On the other end of the spectrum, this brings to mind the summary (sans court order) demolition of houses in a private compound in Makati City with the blessings, so it would appear from the news, of the mayor, Junjun Binay. He reportedly even had an altercation with the DILG secretary, Jesse Robredo. The demolition was enforced days after a raging fire engulfed the compound. It happened a few months ago and also elicited various reactions and criticisms.

Since most if not all the affected people were poor and underprivileged, is there a special law that addresses the matter of their eviction and the demolition of their houses?

Yes, it is Republic Act (RA) 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. Under this law, demolition is a last recourse:

“Sec. 28. Eviction and Demolition. — Eviction or demolition as a practice shall be discouraged. Eviction or demolition, however, may be allowed under the following situations:

(a) When persons or entities occupy danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and other public places such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and playgrounds;

(b) When government infrastructure projects with available funding are about to be implemented; or

(c) When there is a court order for eviction and demolition.

In the execution of eviction or demolition orders involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, the following shall be mandatory:

(1) Notice upon the effected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition;

(2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;

(3) Presence of local government officials or their representatives during eviction or demolition;

(4) Proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition;

(5) Execution of eviction or demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays and during good weather, unless the affected families consent otherwise;

(6) No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for structures that are permanent and of concrete materials;

(7) Proper uniforms for members of the Philippine National Police who shall occupy the first line of law enforcement and observe proper disturbance control procedures; and

(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.”

According to the law’s implementing rules, “Any person or group identified as professional squatter and squatting syndicates shall be summarily evicted and their dwellings or structures demolished…” Also included are "new squatter families" whose structures were built after the effectivity of RA 7279.

It is important to remember that violation of this law carries a penalty of not more than six (6) years of imprisonment or a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000) but not more than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000), or both, at the discretion of the court.

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