June 28, 2009 in editorials
The order from the Mayor’s office to demolish houses that have encroached into the Busol watershed here in Baguio City should be welcome by all. This move to protect the largest watershed in the city is long overdue. Those who have put up their houses in that area fully well know that they have violated the law by doing so.
To give credit where credit is due, the Baguio Regreening Movement has been on the forefront of the campaign to save the Busol watershed from squatters’ encroachment and environmental degradation.
Yet, while the demolition order is lawful, it is unjust. It is so because those who have received demolition notices are only the owners of shanties and one-storey houses in the watershed area, while those with higher and more durable structures are being spared from demolition.
In effect, the order from City Hall discriminates against the poorer violators of the law. The relatively well-off residents of Busol – professionals, military officials, and otherwise well-connected individuals – who were able to put up two-storey and more concrete houses will not be touched.
To accommodate these “untouchable” squatters in Busol, what we will see later on is the re-drawing of the boundaries of the watershed area, so that these violators of the law will eventually go scot-free. This has been the practice in the past with regards to various reservation areas in the City; this is being done today in secrecy, so we see no reason why it will not be done in the future.
And the rich squatters of Busol will then say: “All is well, that ends well.”
So, where is justice here? Or is this another case of one law for the rich and powerful, and another for the poor and powerless? No wonder that the owners of the soon-to-be demolished houses are raising howls of protest against the unjust order. “Either we demolish all, or we do not demolish at all” is their battle cry.
Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia, one of stalwarts of the Baguio Re-greening Movement, has been quoted as standing pat on the demolition orders while expressing concern for the Busol residents whose houses will soon be demolished.
His concern is well-taken. We believe however that a greater concern should be placed on the unintended effect of this discriminatory order. For how will the citizens regard the operation of laws and the legal system when an order can be twisted to favor Jose and discriminate against Pedro? Or, is this really how the system works, unspoken though it might be?
But then, are we not, in effect, subverting law and order in the city by letting this happen? To quote Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila, “The law applies to all, or it does not apply at all.”
So, which way do we go, Mayor Bautista? # nordis.net