Is it immoral for the poor to buy lands in the slums? – the situation is where the poor buys property in the slums, rights only, from a seller who is also a squatter and not the owner of the land.
We begin with this passage from Scripture.
Woes and Judgments
8 Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left
and you live alone in the land.
9 The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:
“Surely the great houses will become desolate,
the fine mansions left without occupants.
10 A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine;
a homer of seed will yield only an ephah of grain.”
Isaiah 5:8-10 New International Version (NIV)
The poor have less choices than the rich, less or little or sometimes, no choice at all. The morality or rather ethics of the rich often will not apply to them. The ethic of the rich and the morality of the poor may contradict each other.
The question we will tackle is whether the poor can buy lots or houses in the slums, the houses or lots being owned by third parties. In other words, the seller and the buyer are both not owners of the property being sold. Is it immoral to buy lands as illegal squatters?
To be precise, the question is actually about the difference between ethics and morality or about what is ethical and what is moral. The issue of morality and ethics is the difference between doing the right thing and doing what is right. Ethics is often found in the law or code and is all about doing what is right. Morality transcends ethics and is about doing the right thing. Ethics and morality also overlap.
There is a big difference however between the two. Wiki says this:
Ethics and morals relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different: ethics refer to rules provided by an external source, e.g., codes of conduct in workplaces or principles in religions (see table of comparison below). Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.
The case of Judge Veneracion which went up to the Supreme Court is a good example. He refused to impose the death penalty (the death penalty was subsequently suspended after that, or during the Gloria Macapagal administration). Before its suspension, a case came up to the sala of Judge Veneracion and being a born again Christian, he utterly refused to impose the death penalty, and submitted himself to sanctions. The Supreme Court reversed his decision and imposed the death penalty, and opined thus:
We are aware of the trial judge’s misgivings in imposing the death sentence because of his religious convictions. While this Court sympathizes with his predicament, it is its bounden duty to emphasize that a court of law is no place for a protracted debate on the morality or propriety of the sentence, where the law itself provides for the sentence of death as a penalty in specific and well-defined instances. The discomfort faced by those forced by law to impose the death penalty is an ancient one, but it is a matter upon which judges have no choice. Courts are not concerned with the wisdom, efficacy or morality of laws. 1995 Supreme Court.
A more glaring example of course is marriage. Among the poor, especially in the slums, nadaganan lang, kasal na or she was just rode on top by the man and they are now married. For many rich theologians or would be theologians, many of these couples are immoral because they are living together without the benefit of marriage or a marriage contract or marriage ceremony. The farce has gone too far that it is really ridiculous.
The bible says when someone has sex with a married person other than his or her own spouse, it is a sin and it is called adultery. But when someone has sex and both partners are not married, it is not called adultery. The sex acts actually makes them married.
The rich man’s theology turns the bible upside down. All divorces as far as God is concerned leads to adultery when the parties remarry. The pastor of a big rich church in Makati is divorced and remarried, and the bible calls it adultery. The rich may say the divorce was proper but God says there is to be no divorce and God only allowed it because they were very hardheaded. John Calvin gave it a label, the divine concession, conceding to worldliness.
So, here, we have what is called illegal or unethical and “immoral” as far as the world is concerned because the poor have cohabited without a marriage certificate or ceremony. But the bible says it is not immoral (if the partners are both single male and female). On the other hand, the world says the divorce and subsequent marriages of rich people are moral and legal but the bible calls it immoral.
Ethics is the imposition of the death penalty or more precisely, the command to the judge under his oath of office to uphold all the laws of the land including the imposition of the death penalty. Ethics is about doing what is right and not about doing the right thing (in this case, Judge Veneracion said the death penalty was not right, thereby insisting on doing the right thing). The two of course overlap each other (doing the right thing and doing what is right) but in this case, since they are conflicting or go against each other, we need to distinguish between the two or we need to separate them.
When Jesus arrived into our world, a lot of what people then considered as ethical and legal (what is right) were questioned on the ground of morality or a higher standard (the right thing). Every generation encounters such a person or question. William Wilberforce, against all odds, questioned the legality of slavery when in everyone’s eyes, slavery was lawful (what is right). It was difficult for many Christians in that period to take sides and many we consider today as good Christians made a mistake, took the wrong side. George Whitfield, my favorite evangelist took the wrong side, against Abraham Lincoln, and favored slavery. Our own generation saw Billy Graham siding with anti-black racism, against Martin Luther King, Jr. This is not strange. Martin Luther the father of Reformation instructed Christians to annihilate the Jews and this became later on the theological basis of the concentration camps of the Nazis. I saw this inscription in the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.
In a given context, sometimes, things or laws are so set or too set, it is impossible to imagine a different scenario or a different way of looking at things. It was hard to take side on the slavery issue because even the bible was not categorical about it. The bible does not condemn slavery at all. But it demanded a humane treatment of slaves. So, for Christians to decide to fight for the abolition of the institution of slavery, they were hard pressed to find a categorical guide from Scripture.
For many years, women’s status also were set in stone or gravestone. When I graduated from law school, the Civil Code put women in the same chapter as insane and minors. Many women staged nonviolent protest to make the government enact laws to allow women suffrage and many women went to jail for it. Martin Luther King Jr. youth followers were jailed in the thousands just for demanding a seat in the public school bus. It was ethical to discriminate against the blacks and women but it was immoral. But how did we know it was? To question set or fixed things or what is deemed ethical or legal may require radical or sometimes violent action. But first it required radical thinking, to think outside of the box. Abolishing the slave institution was radical but in America, it became the core problem of the Civil war that resulted in the death of millions of lives.
Democracy is not a biblical concept but today Christians take it for granted that it is a biblical mandate that people be given freedom and individual rights have to be protected. We now have what we call as an internationally recognized definition of human rights that we use as the basis to criticize despots and dictators.
Orthodoxy is also about doing what is right. Most of present day Christianity is orthodox – Anglican, Roman Catholic, Mennonites, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. Orthodoxy tells us what is right, meaning, if you want to know if you want to be a correct or be a true Reformed Christian for example, you may need to check the rules and doctrines of the Christian Reformed church – its views on salvation, the church, baptism, rapture, communion, etc. Orthodoxy is about conforming to a set of actions or rules which were set by past generations and is continued on today sometimes without any relevance to the present context. When orthodoxy is abused, obedience to orthodoxy becomes simply a form of defensive spirituality to preserve and protect the institution (doing what is right) rather than obey God (doing the right thing).
Most hermeneutics also are about being orthodox, about towing the line. Usually, because it is mechanical, it is also very narrow and inflexible. The results of their hermeneutical tools are also meant only to protect their orthodoxy, e.g. how to become a good Methodist or a good Roman Catholic, meaning, become orthodox or a correct believer, not necessarily become a godly person. But then someone comes along and shows that there is something wrong with being orthodox and that’s when the problem will arise. When slavery or apartheid or racism was shown to be wrong, many Christians were caught in the crossfire and many reacted violently against those who questioned apartheid or slavery.
Modernity brings about that problem because development creates a new consciousness. Democracy is such a development. Many orthodox thinking says women should not become pastors or priests. That is also now being challenged just like slavery was. This is because orthodoxy just follows blindly the rules, in order to do what is right.
Hermeneutics today for many Christians is also all about protecting and preserving their beloved denominations or institutions. Most hermeneutics come from the Enlightenment age which has a strong secular and scientific bias. It is therefore reductionist and very cognitive. It’s reductionist in the sense that it reduces the gospel to its barest minimum of receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior (period). It is also cognitive and individualistic. It is merely a set of propositional truths that a person gives his intellectual assent to. We question this because the bible says we are saved to Jesus and also to the Body. Christianity is not a pietistic, private and personal faith. It has a lot of social and physical dimensions. We question Evangelical orthodoxy which is very narrow and secular or cognitive and pietistic. Today, we can say we are no longer orthodox evangelicals in that we don’t seek to conform strictly to evangelical tenets or distinctive. To do what is right is to promote the inerrancy of Scripture and to evangelize the lost, this is what it means to be evangelical. But Christianity is more than that (and this requires that we learn to do the right thing).
De sotto won a Nobel Prize for his studies on the slums. His work has been implemented in several cities and in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the worse slums in the world. Significant improvements grew out of his recommendations. De Sotto taught how to get the slum assets into the mainstream of the economy which in many cities remain unrecognized by the formal sector. The most radical aspect of De Soto’s writing is learning to look at the slums as assets that could be harnessed for national economic development. This teaching went against the age old notion that slum dwellers were transients and illegal and thus, fixing values to those assets would be also transient and therefore risky and illegal.
Slum dwellers in reality are not transient or illegal (radical view). They are more permanent than most Americans who are very mobile. Many slum dwellers have been illegally occupying lands for thirty years and more. That is longer than most Americans have ever been in one place. Christian squatters when they submit or surrender to the penalties of the law on squatting in effect are not illegal since the penalty in the law also forms part of the law. By going to jail or being willing to be jailed, they in effect submit to the law as in the case of civil disobedience.
Ethics even if applied to the exclusion of morality still gives way to significant leeway for opposite thinking. The law includes the rules and consequent penalties. I have considered, during the Gloria Macapagal administration, to mobilize Christians to boycott paying their taxes as a form of civil disobedience. Boycott and protests are parts of the mechanism of the democratic process. But it is not boycott if we stop paying taxes just like that. We must say, we are not paying taxes because the President is not being prosecuted for an obvious criminal violation (Hello Garcie). We need to also inform the BIR in clear and really noticeable manner that we have stopped paying our taxes. If we don’t tell the BIR, then it becomes simply a tax evasion case. But if we write to BIR that we have stopped paying taxes in protest of Gloria and that BIR should come and arrest us, that we are willing to go to jail, then the whole protest is lawful. Going to jail is part of the lawful process.
(Please also study if you can why there seem to be so many violent outrages in America and Europe today, where a single gun man with no criminal record suddenly goes amok and kills dozens of innocent people. My theory is that these people have been so totally marginalized and excluded that they no longer have any stake in society. If so, we need to start a movement to get poor and weak people to begin to acquire ownership in society so that they will have a vested interest in protecting it. Those who go amok simply feel they have no more stake in society and that they can just destroy everything in it (hahamakin lahat)).
I have witnessed many small time vendors selling on the sidewalks and so many times, City Hall would conduct sidewalk cleaning campaigns and by and by, I will see policemen taking away carts full of bananas or vegetables and the hapless vendor looking so forlorn. That is also part of the legal process, to have your goods confiscated.
I also saw some enterprising and really bold mothers selling under the LRT, in the middle of a busy and wide avenue, on the island partition. When the police comes, they will just look on helplessly at the policeman cart their wares. It is different with non-Christians who will flee or will resist violently. That is altogether a different matter.
What makes it really difficult is that the poor have no choice or choices, but in our legal system, it is the rich who gets more favor – the system is rigged in their favor. As the say about the golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules. The morality or the manner of determining what is immoral follows the same trajectory – an imposition from the top on the majority of poor below. It makes it therefore more imperative to question and to dismantle this imposition on the poor (the morality of the rich that says buying lands in the slums is immoral). Blindly following orthodoxy can lead to oppression because the system is rigged against the poor. Telling a poor man not to occupy idle land or not to buy homes in the slums, when the poor have no other place to stay, is oppressive if not outright indecent.
With that in mind, let us now look at the morality or immorality of occupying or buying lands in the slums. We begin by re-stating the problem. It is not just anyone occupying the land, it is the poor who occupies it. There is a big difference between a rich man occupying or buying land in the slums and a poor man doing the same thing.
It is very common for the poor to go to the slums, buy land or house and live there for a good number of years and then get evicted. At the back of what is now Trinoma, for decades, people bought land or house there from only God knows who the sellers were. The costs were often steep. P100k pesos for a 50 square meter house.
The purchase of lands in the slums, since there are no titles involved and where the seller is not the real owner, is usually a sale involving rights only. What the buyer buys is the right to possess only and the buyer according to the law, enters only into the shoes of the seller, meaning, he acquires only as much rights as the seller had.
We have to distinguish between house and land in the slums. It can be that a person buys both house and land in the slum. It is also possible that he only buys land and constructs his house on it, meaning, he owns the house and he has only bought the rights to the lands, or the land is owned by someone else who is named in the title. He is however not a builder in good faith as defined in the Civil Code because the one who gave him permission to build is not the owner.
There were frequent arsons. What we heard was that the government sent infiltrators to pretend to rent a place and then set candles on top of gasoline cans inside the room. The infiltrator would pretend to go away, to the market or movie and while gone, the house would burn, burning also a hundred or more house along with it. I have watched people pick up pieces of their burned houses, while still smoldering hot, to try to assemble them again into a house or any form of shelter.
The problem in that situation is that the boundary lines of houses are not defined in a clear way because they have no titles or technical descriptions. So after the fire, it becomes a big land grabbing every man for himself struggle. In the end, like in a game of Trip to Jerusalem, some who before the fire had a house in the area end up with no space anymore, because the others or new people who came in after the fire have expanded their area or encroached on their space. It is funny because in a big land case (Tala Estate), the crux of the matter was that the title itself lacked the complete technical description to enable the owners or even the court to determine its exact location. It is clear that the problem of unclear boundaries is not just a problem of the poor.
I was a consultant with DPWH once doing a JICA project for flood control and our surveyors would be prevented by the goons of the Mayor of Pasig, brimming with armalites, at the entrance to the slum. We wanted to survey the area for the flood control project. We were told that these slum dwellers entered the dangerous area because the mayor was selling occupancy permits at P5,000 pesos a piece (cheap) to occupy river banks. The objective was to pool voters in one place for election day vote buying. One criminal syndicate in another place was selling 100 such occupancy permit a day! We met them in court one time and they could afford a battery of Ateneo trained lawyers to fight against us. One syndicate that President Marcos so eagerly wanted jailed was the Torres syndicate.
There are many kinds of lands also. Public and private lands are different. With public lands, the likelihood of the land being awarded to the settlers is high. Most privately owned lands are not for sale except when the place is already congested with squatters, the owner will be forced to sell because the cost of removing hundreds of squatters would be tremendous. Also the law requires that the owner can only evict the settlers if he can provide them alternative housing or pay them a fee to cover their transfer. In government lands, there are less eviction all because the politicians are concerned about the votes, especially near election time.
Vote buying is really one big factor why slums have proliferated. The proposal for the rehabilitation of the PNR was submitted ahead of the LRT project but somehow got set aside. There are many studies about the wonderful effect of such a provincial train system on the congestion and traffic in the cities. London is one big example with the UG. The Japan bullet train copied in many cities have trains moving over 500 kilometer distances taking only the same two hours needed to travel from Montalban to Makati. Why would a poor man insist on staying in the slums if a train could bring him to La Union, San Fernando in also two hours (as through the heavy traffic to work in Metro Manila) where he could enjoy fresh air and a nice garden, raise chicken and even swim in the beach on weekends? Had the rehabilitation of the PNR been prioritized, all the slums of Metro Manila could have been immediately erased and traffic also solved.
It is clear that the government and the rich do not always have the welfare of the poor in mind. In fact, the status quo needs to be changed by the church as reformer/propeht since the status quo is what supports and protects the power and wealth of the rich. The status quo is like the pyramid, with only one room at the top for one Pharaoh and his family (including his attorney, me) and below are millions of his slaves doing the hard labor. But the church and seminaries are often the first and most eager supporters of the status quo.
If the government knows that millions will be migrating to the cities in search for jobs, they should prioritize urban socialized housing in their government programs. It is a massive movement which has turned the world upside down and is unavoidable. Today, more people are living in the cities than in the rural areas which phenomenon was unthinkable before.
I want to discuss also the law on ejectment. If someone were illegally squatting on my land, I can only file a civil case, not a criminal case (although there was a time when squatting was a criminal offense), and I need a final court order to get that person out of my land. This is the law, meaning, we cannot take the law into our own hands, we need a court order. We cannot just physically and forcibly kick people out of our property.
Before going further, we need to see that there are different legal bases for ejectment. Most ejectment cases involving squatters fall under merely the Rules of Court. Usually there are no written contracts. The procedure is outlined in the Rules of Court summary procedures for ejectment. There are two examples. When the rent or lease contract has expired, so the resident become in a way, illegal and can be evicted. Also, when the dweller has entered illegally into the property, by stealth, force or other means. The occupation is generally for dwelling or residence (although the squatter also may have put up a business in the meantime, meaning, the rental was for residential purpose and then along the way, the occupant also opens a sari sari store or rents it out or sells it for commercial use. In case of illegal entry from the start, even if the occupant has mainly a sari sari store or business and not a residential home, the same procedure will apply). When the arrangement involves crops or agricultural activity, the relationship is now governed by tenancy law or the Agrarian law. The rules for ejectment will now be different. However, when a person is hired or has an employment contract or is being paid regular cash payment either as caretaker or guard or domestic helper, the law that governs would be the Labor Code. Finally, the fourth situation is when there is a contract between two equal parties, for example, to do a project or do a business, the relationship would be governed by the Civil Code. In each legal basis, the grounds for ejectment would vary. Actually, the Civil Code would apply in a suppletory way in all of these arrangements.
When the squatter enters into a property owned by a private person, not the government, he can stay there until the court issues a final order commanding him to vacate. This is the law. Rich and poor people alike take advantage of this law.
This principle that one can stay until a court order is issued follows the principle that one cannot take the law into his own hands. There are many similarly egregious laws. If I do not pay our water bills for example, the water company can cut off our water supply until I pay no matter what the real reasons maybe for my non-payment or even if I claim I already paid but they disagreed, I will still need to pay first (meaning, no matter how justified my cause is, they won’t reconnect my water). I will of course be allowed to ask for a refund later but meantime, I have no water while the case drags. Refund is also a pipe dream in the Philippines.
This is the same principle in land rights. The occupant stays until the case is resolved with finality. It is the truism, possession is 90% of the law (rich and poor take advantage of this). It is also the same with Globe or your banks. He who holds the upper hand, controls the situation – your Globe will not be reconnected or the bank wont let you withdraw money.
If my brother and I have a dispute about our common house and lot and he is occupying the property, if I file a court case, he will remain in the property until the court makes a final decision. In short, he has the upper hand, he has the gold so to say. While the case is pending my brother gets to use the house. It gives a very big advantage to the occupants or the one with power (Meralco or PLDT or Globe).
I quote the pronouncement of the Court on the matter of ejectment and possession in Pajuyo v. Court of Appeals:
“The only question that the courts must resolve in ejectment proceedings is who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises, that is, to the possession de facto and not to the possession de jure. It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable, or when both parties intruded into public land and their applications to own the land have yet to be approved by the proper government agency. Regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror. Neither is the unlawful withholding of property allowed. Courts will always uphold respect for prior possession.”
“Thus, a party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself. Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him. To repeat, the only issue that the court has to settle in an ejectment suit is the right to physical possession.”
We have cases involving indigenous tribes who have lost their land to unscrupulous land grabbers, rich people. These rich people now occupy their land illegally the natives cannot take the law into their own hands which means, until there is a court decision, the rich illegal occupants cannot be removed. The natives also are poor and cannot afford a lawyer. And even if they do, our legal system is biased in favor of the rich who can afford the better trained lawyer (it’s all about may the best lawyer win, meaning, the lousy lawyer will lose).
Primarily because of the huge backlog in court cases, estimated at three years of backlog, we can say there is really no justice in the Philippines. The average time for court cases to be resolved is five years. In many cases, involving the poor, it is almost infinite. The parties who have the most resources, the best lawyers are the ones best able to take advantage of the system of justice. This makes the justice system inherently biased in favor of the rich and powerful or connected. Law practice is no longer about what you know but about who you know.
The USA does not have the same law as we have. Once you don’t pay your rent in America, the owner can kick you out without need of a court order. But USA has its drawbacks. It is the most litigious country in the world with more court cases than the total population. We discourage lawsuits in the Philippines so if you are the one who files the case, sometimes, a simple ejectment case can take years to finish. It means the land owner is put to an extreme difficulty and disadvantage by the legal system here. Rewards and damages are always at the minimal level to discourage lawsuits.
Our urban land reform law has added a twist to it. You will also need to provide a reasonable relocation or housing for the squatters you remove, or allot a proportion of the value before you can eject them, if they are legitimate illegal squatters (which is an oxymoron). Here we are making a fine distinction between simple squatting and the pernicious practice of syndicated squatting. If a squatter already owns land elsewhere, he or she will not qualify for relocation nor be entitled to socialize housing. If he or she is squatting in more than one place, it could be interpreted as a criminal act of syndicated squatting and he can be criminally prosecuted, not for squatting but for syndicated squatting.
On the other side of the spectrum, when the poor and helpless slum dwellers face an illegal demolition, it can also be bitter and painful. It takes lots of money to get a good law office to file a TRO to stop the demolition and by the time you are able to get a court order for TRO the whole community could already be demolished. I once watched several buses, long ones, the same ones we see being used as school buses for rich schools. They were filled with demolition crews armed with crowbars and sledgehammers. By the time we got our TRO they had demolished 60 houses in our slum community.
We have taught our people how to mobilize and defend against illegal demolition. These demolitions are fast and effective. They are illegal because they usually do not have a court order. Sometimes they show a court order that later on we find out is a fake but by then, they have already achieved their objective and are now in possession of our land. Once in possession, it is us this time who will need a court order (of course, if they are richer, they usually have armed security guards too and they can bribe the sheriff).
For areas called Dangerous zones, like river banks or easements or sidewalks, the demolition can be swift and effective, no discussions, no need for court order.
I know several people in Talayan, a rich subdivision in Quezon City along Araneta Avenue, who are squatting on land illegally, by encroaching and claiming parts of the San Francisco River adjacent to their lands, sometimes as much as 400 square meters each and City Hall won’t bat an eyelash about it. These are millionaires. But their encroachment on river banks and easements is completely ignored by the authorities.
Security guards are also complex. Most of the security agencies operating in the country are fake agencies. But since almost all are owned by former military, this is usually just overlooked. We had an occasion when, by sheer luck or by the miracle of God, we investigated the agency involved and discovered they were not registered (colorum). We promptly invaded the property and took back possession (with the help of the police). The government overseeing security agencies is the SOSIA (Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies) located inside Camp Crame. Most rich people have their own private army though. In one case, we were able to get the help of a truckload of PNP to help us forcibly kick out a land grabber but before we could celebrate, he came back with two truckloads of another batch of PNP.
When we can, we oppose these demolitions or at least delay it until we can get a court TRO. Usually the police are on the side of illegal demolition. The rich who do these demolitions are well prepared and have the police to assist in the demolition. We train our people to form barricades, if we are able to get advance notice of the coming demolition crew. The first line of the barricade will be all the small children, as small as possible. They are the most vulnerable. At the second line would be the old people, grandmas and grandpas, the older the better. In the third line would be the mothers or women in general. Pregnant women are best. At the last line would be the men. Men usually just makes things worse, they increase the tension and things soon turn violent. Then the demolition crew or police start shooting back. So the men have to be hidden at the back, armed with rocks. The young kids are also vulnerable, so they take position behind the houses, also with rocks. Today, I think we can do more with Facebook, we can rally or mobilize faster. We can take pictures and upload them on FB. Terrorists and oppressors do not like those pictures publicized.’
The law always seeks to be humane and this is a significant biblical principle. There is nothing wrong for example with capitalism per se but nonetheless because of the extreme concentration of capital, the need to make it more humane becomes not just imperative but without it capitalism would be adjudged as completely sinful and completely contrary to biblical principles. Greed and working exclusively for profit is evil. Sometimes what makes something moral is if it is humane not just because it is lawful. As Paul would put it, 1 Corinthians 10.23, 24
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
The rich often have a choice when it comes to occupying land. They don’t become squatters because they have a choice where to stay, they can go to places the poor can never afford. Urban migration is now an absolute phenomenon – meaning, it is happening everywhere and it is guaranteed to happen. Millions will go to the cities in search of jobs. Urban migration is a function of the extreme concentration of capital in the cities. The trend is that more and more people will be living in cities than in the provinces and for those those who go to the cities, majority will land in the slums because housing in the cities are very expensive.
The famous theologian Walter Brueggemann has written a lot about land rights and given much needed insight on the topic but unfortunately, using the Biblical basis as starting point for understanding land rights in urban areas is wrong. Urban poor people do not want land! Besides, there is no shortage of land for which land rights advocacy would be needed. There is enough land except these lands are found in remote places, inaccessible for the poor who needs to get to work quickly and cheaply. There is a lot of vacant land around Metro Manila but these are not accessible by public transport, or else, do not have electricity or water.
The poor do not want land, instead, what they want is housing, a place near their work site. There are studies using the legal development history in America as a way to analyze how the land squatting problem in the poor countries could perhaps be solved (referring to the Homestead laws of America) if the pattern of legal development in America is followed. But these are irrelevant in this situation. There are still vast tracts of land in the provinces (similar to where the Americans sent homesteaders) but the poor do not want them. In America, the greatest factor actually that affected the non-development of squatters was the invention of a commodity car or a car which everyone could own (Ford’s vision was a car in every home). This made long distances irrelevant. Trains would do the work for the same problem, but America went ahead and developed their car system more.
The poor have precisely migrated to the cities in search for jobs. It is employment or the need for employment that is the driver for this migration. As a result, they need housing, not land. They need housing so they can get to work. The government has always failed to understand this. All the relocation projects are remote, usually, there is no jeep or bus. We were in Jovil, Montalban, years ago, in a relocation site, with very poor people. We planted a church there as well as built a school. Every time we go home, we walked several kilometers until we got to the jeepney stop. We often asked about jeepneys and were told that the government was not giving out franchises for our area yet. They still have to determine the load capacity, how many passengers will be on that route that the proposed jeepney will service. This is the problem about which comes first, the chicken or the egg. The poor need cheap transport to get to work and they are relocated to remote places which are also cheap, that they can afford but then there is no jeep. The government will not issue a franchise for a jeep until there is enough passengers to justify creating a line for that route.
When it comes to morality it is far easier for those with a choice to stay away from lands not theirs and find another that is so-called lawful. When the rich sees a piece of property which they know is not theirs or for which they have no permission to use, they will not enter it and they will say it is immoral to do it. But that is imposing the morality of the rich, of those who have a choice. For those who have no such luxury, they will quickly enter the property and stay and they will suffer ejectment as a consequence as well as the indignities that come along with it (the stigma of being called squatters). Nowadays, we need to be politically correct, we say, informal settlers, instead of squatters, perhaps as a concession that the problem may not at all be that quite black and white and that perhaps the big picture might show a different view, showing the oppression and exploitation that we cannot see when we are just intent of doing what is right instead of wanting to do the right thing.
Christian squatters or informal settlers are agreed. They don’t own the land and they are there only temporarily. They also bet their chances together with the rest of the community, that it will be harder to evict them all together, than if they were alone. Which is why squatters flock together like birds of the same feather.
Usually squatters occupy lands that are idle or vacant. This is a legal concept also. Idle lands are defined in both the Rules of Court as well as the Local Government Tax code. The poor have no means to invade violently properties occupied by their owners. Trespassing is a criminal offense which means there is a strong leverage available to the property owner if his land is invaded. Most squatters also don’t act in concert together like a syndicate to takeover lands, only the criminal syndicates do that (we should not lump them together). A squatter can be one who enters a land by stealth or secretly unknown to the owner or violently and by force against the will of the owner (violence here being on idle or vacant lands). In case of idle lands, no matter how indiscrete the squatter is, how loud and obvious, the owner will never know, when for example, he is abroad.
There are many fake titles and also many properties which have wrong boundaries. I always tell my clients before they buy a house, to conduct a relocation survey. We have over enthusiastic sales people who will point to a piece of land as the land one should buy but they have absolutely no idea whether it is the same lot as that described in the title they are handing to us. Only a geodetic engineer can know that. We have cases where an innocent buyer of land builds his house on the boundary pointed out by the sales person only years later to find out that the sales person actually pointed at the wrong lot. Or else, the boundary was wrong and is encroaching on the adjacent title. In one case, the owner had to saw off a portion of his kitchen because it had over stepped into the neighbor’s lot. Because of the sad state of titling in the Philippines, land boundaries are often unclear and therefore can also be easily confused, giving rise to what is called colorable titles discussed below.
I had a discussion one time with Christian experts in land surveying. More than 20 years ago, the World Bank offered loans to many poor countries including the Philippines, to make all land titling computerized and connected with real time satellite positioning. It was rejected by powerful people in government because it would show the big scam in our Philippine titling system – that when we put all our land titles together, we would be bigger than the entire USA. This big scam also in the meantime favor the rich who own these fake titles.
Payatas is actually an area covered by the Forest Land law. Of course, it is not obvious looking at the land, that indeed it is forest land since when we began there, there was hardly any trees. After almost thirty years, some trees have grown. It is funny because these trees have something in common – mango, tamarind, santol, langka, etc. It tells you that these were seeds from fruits eaten by the people and have found a way to grow.
We had a prolonged battle over OCT 333 which is the title covering Payatas but we gave up after about 8 years when the adverse counsel Narvasa became justice of the Supreme Court. Forest lands like swamps or mangroves or those planted with nipa cannot be sold. They are inalienable lands, and belong to the State. We fought to have OCT 333 canceled or revoked because it was a fake. And when declared to be fake, the whole land would revert to the State that would give us a better chance as squatters to petition for its declaration to be allotted as land for the poor, for socialized housing. We lost there and after some thoughts we decided that it was cheaper to apply the saying, if you can’t beat them, join them. We realized that it takes at least a million pesos of litigation funds to get a title canceled, over a period of fifty years. It would be better if we just buy from the fake title owners and let the world file a case against us to cancel our fake title (derived from OCT 333), and which we did. We filed with CMP to have the land declared for socialized housing. Under the CMP, the government paid the land owner (the owner of the title derived from the fake OCT 333).
In case of idle lands, the poor can enter it illegally and if his possession is actual, open, hostile, notorious, and continuous for thirty years or more, adverse and in concept of owner, he will not be immediately removed especially if the land he has invaded has no title. It must have been declared as alienable and disposable lands by Congress also. He can in a way register his incomplete and imperfect title through a process of recognition of title. But over lands with titles, there can be no prescription. He can apply prescription over accretion in riverbanks in Metro Manila, except in Marikina because the Marikina legal definition of easement is unique. All other cities measure easement from the high tide point. Marikina measures easement from the center of the river to each side 98 meters.
The most famous land case for squatters is the case involving the San Pedro estate which claims to be descendants of the first datu of Luzon, whose claim includes the entire Philippines, up to Hawaii! DBP had won a case against a respondent who failed to pay on his mortgage and DBP was now foreclosing on respondent’s property and as a consequence was also demanding the respondent to vacate. However, the respondent also had a colorable title which is a deed of sale from the San Pedro estate. The Supreme Court prevented DBP from ejecting the respondent but not because the colorable title had any value. The reason is because the Rules of Court prevents a collateral attack on the title or colorable title, in this case, through an execution after foreclosure of mortgage. DBP in short was not claiming to be owner. It needed to defeat the colorable title in a direct fight, owner versus owner.
After that decision, because the poor don’t understand what a collateral attack means, there has been a proliferation of colorable titles in the slums, obtained as a magical amulet to protect against powerful land grabbers.
I said, there is a difference between government owned and private owned lands. I was a lawyer for some time working as consultant with DPWH in removing informal settlers on dangerous zones like river banks in Pasig River. These river banks were easements and have no titles. Some were accretions when the river moved or became silted and thus, where the river dried up land was exposed allowing settlers to build their homes there.
No one, absolutely, is allowed to occupy dangerous areas such as river bank easements or road sides or sidewalks or canals. Easements by legal definition cannot be occupied because it is for a public purpose. Beaches are easements because long ago, fishermen needed to be able to cross them to get to the sea or river to fish. Easements also recognizes that the water behave uniquely and often out of control, beyond human control that is. So, during high tides, these easements sometimes are inundated.
Some government lands though are declared and reserved just for the purpose of socialized housing. This is the work of the NHA, to find suitable lands for relocation. Most of the projects are PPP or partnership between private and public entities. The CMP and the socialized housing mortgages have been used for many big time scams already, by the rich. One big developer built big housing projects and then transferred the mortgages to the government (SSS or the Social Housing Finance Corporation) but turned out that there were really no borrowers or occupants. In CMP, lands that were worthless or could never be sold were sold to the CMP on pretended squatters occupying the land. The owner simply trucked as many people as he could on his land and made them pretend to be squatters.
In our area, at Taguig, beside the Laguna Lake, which is covered by the LLDA, the occupancy of the area is very strictly regulated and eviction happens quickly and frequently except once when the settlers marched in mass to Malacanang and Gloria Macapagal stopped the demolition, even though the settlers were occupying lake property which is technically under water.
In some places, the concept of tagged no longer operates. Part of the process of relocation is to tag the official squatters (sometimes including renters, not just homeowners). In the Smoky Mountain area of Tondo, there have been several waves of informal settlers and the first wave, perhaps even the second wave, were tagged as beneficiaries entitled to socialized housing and actually relocated but then several more waves of informal settlers came in and occupied the area after it was cleared, which means they are no longer entitled to be tagged nor be recognized as beneficiaries for socialized housing.
Land cases in court take a longer time than most other cases. Fifty years would be a good average. The resolution of the big land cases affecting the areas in Araneta Avenue would be tremendously disruptive of the city because it would mean all the titles that grew out of these disputed titles would be rendered void. The other case involving huge tracts of land involves the Tala Estate (formerly Friar Land). Resolving the Tala case would also overturn many titles already in the hands of many innocent land owners.
The Register of Deeds was only computerized about five years ago (2010) but the titles were not computerized, only the pieces of paper on which the titles were printed. For decades prior to that, the most number of administrative cases in Malacanang involved crooked heads of Registers of Deeds who falsified titles. The titles are normally signed by the Director of Lands at the beginning (OCTs) but thereafter, only the signature of the Register of Deeds was required (for TCTs). He was the small mafia when it came to fake titles since he was commander in chief of that tiny office. When he observed that a certain folder had not been active for several years, meaning, perhaps the owner was abroad or had died, he would get another piece of paper (the security paper over which the title was printed over which he had full control) and print on it the entire data of that title found in that folder, everything but the name. He would put the name of another person and sell that property. If you wanted to verify, you would go to the same Register of Deeds to get a certified true copy (attesting to the fact that the said title exists and the owner named on the title is the same one selling it to you now). Of course, the Register of Deeds would certify so. He was the only one who knew better.
As a result many land titles were forged. One time, because of the immensity of the problem, someone finally set on fire the entire seventh floor of Quezon City hall to burn all potential evidence against the forgeries.
My greatest fantasy in fact is what I call Cuba Libre. In the midst of the celebration of the victory of Fidel Castro in Cuba, against the decadent aristocrats, some wise guy, maybe Che Guevara ordered that all land titles be revoked. There was a frenzy of title burning in the capital city park. I wish that day would come when all titles in the Philippines were burned.
China squatters according to a World Bank funded study are perhaps the most oppressed of all squatters in the world. Squatters in China can be trucked and carted out of the city without notice within 24 hours from the time they set foot on the place that does not belong to them. Squatter don’t stand a chance in that police state. On top of the fact that there is no due process law in China, they also have an oppressive law on residential qualification as prerequisite to being able to occupy or own a house in the city. For years, millions migrated to the cities in China and for some time, they could find places (slum like) to rent that were comfortable and decent. These were usually improvised spaces, built on the balcony or on the roof. Sometimes, also a member of the family leaves and his space or room becomes available for rent. Or, in most cases, the family just pushes the members into one room so they can get the extra income from renting it to urban migrants. After many years, there were not much left but the pressure from urban migration continued unabated and even grew stronger. So now what these newcomers find in the cities today are inhuman and indecent dwellings, totally unfit for humans. In addition, not being residents, their kids also cannot avail of public school quotas. It makes urban migration a dead end literally because the next generation are uneducated and therefore cannot rise higher than when their parents began.
The CMP is an interesting item of discussion also. I once did a survey of our international Christian lawyers group wanting to find out what country had the best urban poor land rights laws and after a long circuitous search I ended up talking with a lady lawyer who referred me to her scholarly article in the Washington Law Journal which talked about, guess what? The Community Mortgage Program which was enacted at the time of Corrie Aquino and probably the best in the world up to now. The law is very good in that it is the most accessible and most practical way to solve illegal squatting (not syndicated squatting). With such law, squatting is no longer a black and white problem or a clear cut thing. There are clearly many nuances.
The CMP’s solution to the sticky and mind-boggling problem of squatting is for the government to advance the pay (fair market value or BIR zonal value of the land) to the land owner which immediately removes the land owner from the picture, leaving only two protagonists – the government and the squatters. Of course, the land owner has to agree, the land owner cannot be forced or it becomes a form of eminent domain which is a more complicated problem.
From then on, the squatters who need to be organized into one juridical entity begins to pay amortization to the government usually an easy pay plan of 25 years. Normally, the CMP would work only where the land value is affordable so that the individual buyer can pay somewhere between 300 to 700 pesos a month. After a while, the individual members of the housing organization may request that their title be segregated and that they be allowed to pay separately from the group. This is needed since some members may not be able to continue paying their monthly amortization which will delay the entire community’s payment.
CMP is always onsite. This is a big strategic advantage of the program. Most housing projects are offsite because it is cheaper. You look for land that is affordable, buy it, get the title and then relocate the poor from their present slum location (you need to do tagging first to make sure you have the right people being relocated). Offsite projects however can have tragic results. They need a lot of investments in infrastructures like schools, roads, electricity, water, clinics, and transport. These require a lot of money and although one may have found an affordable site, the money needed to get these infrastructure may prove to be impossible to get.
When the offsite project is launched, usually, the Habitat for Humanity can be invited to help and they have done a lot to help the poor in the several decades they have existed. However, the innovation of the Gawad Kalinga has outpaced the work of Habitat by several miles. Today, GK’s record remains unsurpassed even by government housing achievements. GK’s main innovation is that it is onsite (they also will do offsite) and they don’t require that the poor have legal title to their land (which Habitat wont agree to). This way GK works again shows that the problem of squatting has many nuances.
This is the legal mishmash of the Philippines. It is obviously not a black and white thing where one can slap one’s idea of morality neatly on the whole picture. We have to consider the history of exploitation, the fake titles, the opportunity to buy, the humane element of socialized housing and relocation, etc. it is certainly not just a one shot one dimensional process.
The usual scenario for the urban poor is like this. He migrates to the city in search of work. He lands in the slums with hundreds of others who are squatters or else, he finds a secluded spot under the bridge or an empty space beside the river. Sometimes if he is an early bird, he is the first to settle into the area.
I have stories about the relocation of some of the squatters from Manila as early as the time of Mayor Arsenio Lacson in the early sixties. The squatters who were forcibly evicted by court order were trucked out of their place and everyone was complaining that they were being relocated to a remote and isolated area (the feeling of people who joined the French Foreign Legion). Indeed, it was a harsh, remote, isolated, undeveloped area with no amenities whatsoever. Fifty years after, guess what happened? That area is what we call now Pag-Asa and it is immediately behind SM North on EDSA, the most expensive prime lot of that district.
I always tell the urban poor that they should not mind being relocated to far flung areas because soon, their place will also become like Pag Asa. But still, if they have no way to get to work, it might be a suicide move. I used to say the farthest I have ever gone was Payatas which felt like that then (from our house in U.P. Village, Quezon City). Now, I am going to slums three or four times farther. After ten years or more, the depressed and impoverished slums (like Payatas dumpsite where I worked for eleven years) now no longer look depressed at all. Just the mere action of urbanization has converted the place into a bustling thriving moderately not-poor subdivision, and the land value has increased several times.
So when the squatter comes the land could just be simple idle land or like nowadays, are relocation sites. Most relocation sites of course are legit with proper titling and blocked housing, stand alone or medium rise. But in the past, many of the relocation sites were illegal lands. Makati city hall has encouraged encroachment of many squatters. The Mayor has consistently been elected by these people, not by the rich and legitimate owners of the lands in Makati.
If it is a relocation site, there is usually no more problem with illegal occupation. The settlers are immediately lawful owners paying amortization, of course, until they stop paying and when that happens they become illegal occupants again (pending court order of eviction or being declared recalcitrants). Usually, the poor stop paying because the relocation sites are too far away, no roads, no water and electricity, no medical facilities, and no schools. Or else, the developer fails to develop as promised the drainage, roads, water supply, etc. But there are many also because of sheer poverty who won’t be able to keep up with the mortgage largely because relocation sites are very far away from their work place (from construction sites where their husbands work doing masonry, carpentry, etc.). The fare can be too expensive, sometimes more than half of their daily wages.
The conclusion is this, when seen from the perspective of the big picture, of an evolving notion of justice and land rights, similar to what happened to the slavery issue, it is obvious that sticking rigidly to ethical or legal norms involving land rights, can lead to real oppression and injustice. As morality matures and evolves, the church is more able to see how justice can be instituted in a given context. Slavery in the bible times was lawful as is but it also needed to be improved, to become more humane. But later on, due to the maturity of the church, slavery was entirely dismantled, not just made more humane.
The law itself is not that clear cut or black and white either. It is also not the final word on the matter, as society matures and develops (its notion of right and wrong). Today, there are still many avenues to turn the law this way or that way, often favoring the ingenious ones, those able to, who have the funds and attorneys to twist the law in their favor. Meantime, Christian squatters who do not have a choice, should be allowed to occupy idle lands, without using violence or force, as well as be be willing to surrender or give up their possession when a final court order is issued. Idle lands are in itself a form of oppression because it is not being used and represents excess at the expense of people who cannot find a home (see the bible quote at the beginning). But the law can be interpreted to deprive the poor from using merely on the ploy that the poor do not own it. Meantime, it lies idle and useless. Land ownership or wealth someday needs to be adjusted to consider the social justice dimensions of ownership, such that, when it is not really being used, it may be used in the meantime by the poor. That day I am sure is coming soon.
If you want a recommendation, there is a project in Lagos, Nigeria that seems worth emulating. The squatters have been connected with a law office provides instant legal response to demolition. In a way, the poor now can have good quality attorneys on their side on a 24 hour on call basis, for free. If Christian lawyers can provide this service, it would be tremendous help. Part of the time, the lawyers take turn working in the slums to train and educate the slum leaders on para-legal skills. This is a good way to take sides, take the side of the poor. Of course, there are always risk with this kind of work. In my class on advocacy, I have always warned my students that before they can meaningfully proceed with the class, they must have a good self examination. Only when they have dealt with the fear of imprisonment can they become effective advocates for land rights for the poor. They must deal with that fear in a decisive way, imagine what their families will go through with them in jail, imagine years of jail time. Mandela fought for the poor and was in jail thirty some years. Luther King Jr and Gandhi all suffered jail. Jail must never be a deterrent for advocacy.
The second recommendation is to conduct proper and sound urban planning. I had a glimpse of this when working as consultant with DPWH briefly. All government offices are part of and aware of the government Master Plan. These should be revisited and implemented as much as possible, revised if necessary. A good master plan will make a big difference when implemented properly. The Malls on EDSA would never be allowed under proper implementation of the Master Plan. Of course, rehabilitating the PNR to run from Manila north until San Fernando, La Union and south until Legaspi, Albay, will have immediate impact on removal of slums and improving traffic congestion (traffic has been found by a World Bank study to be costing us the equivalent of our total annual international debt repayment).
Comparison chart from Wikipedia
|Ethics versus Morals comparison chart|
|What are they?||The rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group or culture.||Principles or habits with respect to right or wrong conduct. While morals also prescribe dos and don’ts, morality is ultimately a personal compass of right and wrong.|
|Where do they come from?||Social system – External||Individual – Internal|
|Why we do it?||Because society says it is the right thing to do.||Because we believe in something being right or wrong.|
|Flexibility||Ethics are dependent on others for definition. They tend to be consistent within a certain context, but can vary between contexts.||Usually consistent, although can change if an individual’s beliefs change.|
|The “Gray”||A person strictly following Ethical Principles may not have any Morals at all. Likewise, one could violate Ethical Principles within a given system of rules in order to maintain Moral integrity.||A Moral Person although perhaps bound by a higher covenant, may choose to follow a code of ethics as it would apply to a system. “Make it fit”|
|Origin||Greek word “ethos” meaning”character”||Latin word “mos” meaning “custom”|
|Acceptability||Ethics are governed by professional and legal guidelines within a particular time and place||Morality transcends cultural norms|
Ethics in law refer to the code of ethics for example, the code of ethics of judges or code of ethics of government or public officials.
 For more on non-violent protests and civil disobedience –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYteDgW2C2E&list=PLDrpcxc_qFmeuB9eW6o7Q8IP52vUHV9CQ
Most churches though discourages civil disobedience and even nonviolent protests as lawlessness and bordering on chaos, contrary to the biblical teaching to be orderly and peaceful. It was hard to see the church behind or in support of Martin Luther King Jr or Mandela. Christians always control these behaviors by shaming them as unchristian and telling the people concerned that there are lawful means available and that we are a democracy. The Christians fail to see that even our democracy has been co-opted by the rich against the poor. One time, our pastor was detained in a police station awaiting inquest for a criminal offense because he had broken up a gambling activity which was supported by the local police (of which we could never get evidence of). To go through the normal legal process, get a lawyer and go to court, would have been devastating for our church. But we had a better plan. We organized five other churches to join us to do a prayer vigil outside the police substation and very quickly the chief police of that substation released our pastor.
 If the eviction is by way of a court order, 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. 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? It must be noted that these requirements are imposed on government, and not imposed on the private entity or individual asserting the right to possess. How to Evict an Illegal Settler. George S.D. Aquino. March 06, 2014. http://www.accralaw.com/publications/how-evict-illegal-settler.
 Prior possession is not always a condition sine qua non in ejectment. This is one of the distinctions between forcible entry and unlawful detainer. In forcible entry, the plaintiff is deprived of physical possession of his land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. Thus, he must allege and prove prior possession. But in unlawful detainer, the defendant unlawfully withholds possession after the expiration or termination of his right to possess under any contract, express or implied. In such a case, prior physical possession is not required.
 We have a friend, with modest capital, who goes around the slums looking for opportunities to open a drugstore. He would buy rights only and build a concrete one story structure which will be secure so robbers cannot break into his drugstore. He makes sure he is the first or one of the first to open a drugstore in that slum. His window is usually just two or three years by which time his capital investment is already recovered. He has perhaps ten such structures in the slums. After which, lots of other drugstores will already operate there and he will now close his or sell his place and find another area.
 There are additional requirements for eviction of urban settlers. Republic Act No. 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (“R.A. 7279”) covers “all lands in urban and urbanizable areas, including existing areas for priority development sites, and in other areas that may be identified by the local government units as suitable for socialized housing.” Urban areas are defined by law “as all cities regardless of their population density and to municipalities with a population density of at least five hundred (500) persons per square kilometer.”
Section 28 of R.A. 7279 allows the eviction of settlers and demolition of structures (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; (c) when there is a court order for eviction and demolition.
Under the same Section, eviction may be effected under the following conditions: (1) Notice upon the affected 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. How to Evict an Illegal Settler. George S.D. Aquino. March 06, 2014. http://www.accralaw.com/publications/how-evict-illegal-settler.
 This is another oxymoron. How can one apply violence or force on vacant land? Usually, if the land is fenced or is guarded, the entry can be characterized as violent or forcible. In case of places which are occupied or inhabited, the criminal case of trespass is trespass to dwelling, meaning, there is a house (residential) and there are people living there. But it is rare that a criminal case for trespass can be filed against squatters since as I said, very rarely will they invade inhabited or occupied lands.
 Accretion is vacant land growing out of natural movement of the water, the sea or the river. When the seashore grows or expands in area, that area is not titled and can be acquired by merely occupying it for a certain period and then applying for recognition of title.
 We had a case also where a rich man bought several pieces of land which were not declared alienable and disposable by Congress. He bribed the local land authorities to make a title. But years later, a huge Korean shipping company was given right to occupy the area as part of the economic zone. He tried to prevent the shipping company from entering his property but could not because none of the local land authority would take his side (they were afraid because they knew the titles were illegal and they were complicit in the making of the fake titles).
 The one child policy actually also contributes to this oppression. Many who are not aware, do not know that the one child policy of China is a very inhuman form of oppression. When a child is born, a second or third or fourth child, that child cannot secure a birth certificate. He or she also can never have residency or public school quota anywhere in China.
 In the USA, we have the civil disobedience registered by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in https://www.yahoo.com/news/kentucky-clerk-asks-court-dismiss-gay-marriage-lawsuit-154748150.html. She refused as county clerk to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple on religious or conscience ground and was jailed for five days.