COMMENTARY | When they betray the people who trust them


Every election, the voting populace especially the poor are eager to see how their candidates, whom they believe to be the least evil running among members of the elite, will fare in the political arena. Last election, many people of Baguio, who are mostly from the urban poor were glad that there was new face in the representation of the City to the House of Congress.
One of the promises he made is to author legislation that would address what the Baguio people really want and need. For some, they see him as a better leader who would bring real progress.

The problems in the City include over development, congestion, traffic jams, garbage, lack of political will, unreliable officials and so on.

For the urban poor, apart from the fear of going hungry, they are always wary of losing their homes and sources of livelihood. Many of them come from the adjacent towns and provinces in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions and even from Visayas and Mindanao. They flocked to the City because they thought there would be better opportunities for them. Some of them were forced to leave their villages because of the armed conflict, land grabbing and extreme poverty.

But their dreams of a better life became a nightmare. They were welcomed by poverty and uncertainty. They had to find ways to cope with the lack of jobs, high costs of living and no land to call their own. Many of these urban poor are forced to build their houses and develop vacant and idle lands.

Through the years of occupying these lots, they are constantly faced with threats of demolition by the City government because these lots are classified as either public land or privately owned.

Many of the privately owned lots are covered by fraudulent titles like the case of lands covered by 211 titles. These titles are issued under Civil Reservation Case No. 1, GLRO, Record No. 211, pursuant to Republic Act 931, as amended, and as provided under P.D. 1271, amended.

On July 31, 1973, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared all titles issued under 211 as void as they were issued by court decrees. It is understood that titles, to be valid, should be acquired through administrative legalization in the appropriate administrative agencies. Years and decades before the SC decision, Baguio courts issued 2-11 land titles.

But owners of 211 titles were given a chance to validate their land claims. The cut-off period of extended validation of such titles was on February 6, 1987.

General Land Registration Office (GLRO) Record No. 211 shows that the 11,500,000 square meters total land area of Baguio is covered by both validated and unvalidated 211 titles. Some 8,500 land titles under 211 in Baguio.

Of these he said, 6,000 applied for validation where 4,000 were approved. He added that 2,000 are still pending for validation.

These lots are mostly occupied by the urban poor and were deemed reverted to the government and even declared by the City Council as alienable and disposable.
With these developments, somehow the people were able to sleep better.

And so the City representative, continued to do his job of passing bills for the benefit of the people. And the people were glad.

Until months ago, when the House of Representatives approved on final reading a bill which will allow 211 title holders to file for validation.

As some city official said, if passed into law, this would create a rucus in the City, between 211 title holders and actual occupants. Even an ally of the City representative said that the people should have been consulted first before the bill was passed.

For the bill to become a law, the Senate would pass a counterpart bill and then both houses will come out with the final bill to be signed by the President.

Just as this article is being written, someone called informing me that some houses are being demolished in Barangay Irisan.

So the nightmare is back.

It is again election time, and the voting public are again faced with the burden of choosing the lesser evil among the political candidates.

Again, the painful lesson voters have yet to learn that their job does not end after the elections. That more than electing the ‘lesser evil’, it is more important to maintain an open communication with their elected officials, to make their voices heard and to keep their officials aware of their situation and issues.#


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