Friday, March 18, 2016

Proposed code of conduct for eviction of homeless persons and demolition of dwellings endorsed for plenary approval

Two House committees have reported out for plenary approval a proposal prescribing a code of conduct for the eviction of underprivileged or homeless people, or the demolition of their dwellings, and penalizing such acts.

The Committee on Appropriation chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) and on Housing and Urban Development chaired by Rep. Alfredo B. Benitez (3rd District, Negros Occidental) endorsed for plenary approval, prior to the congressional adjournment, House Bill 6446, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7279, otherwise known as the "Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992" to prevent unfortunate incidents during demolitions or evictions and ensure protection of the human rights of all concerned.

The bill is principally authored by Rep. Gustavo S. Tambunting (2nd District, ParaƱaque City) who said the outbreak of violence during evictions and demolitions of urban and rural poor residents oftentimes results in injuries or loss of lives.

Moreover, Tambunting said the difficulty of coordinating the various stakeholders, including branches and agencies of the government, have caused jurisdiction problems.

"We hope that with the adoption of a code of conduct, all these unfortunate incidents will be minimized, if not totally avoided," said Tambunting, a vice chairman of the Committee on Trade and Industry.

House Bill 6446 amends RA 7279 so that eviction and demolition as a practice shall be discouraged. Eviction or demolition may be allowed when persons or entities occupy a danger area or high risk area which poses a high level of threat to public welfare and safety that cannot be addressed through or remedied by scientific, physical and engineering methods and, thereby, unsuitable for settlement and suitable structures.

A permanent area can only be declared as a danger area or high-risk area through an appropriate technical study and adequate public consultation with the affected persons or entities.

Eviction or demolition may also be allowed when there is a court order for such. No execution of eviction or demolition order shall proceed and be carried out during the pendency of an appeal notwithstanding the failure to file as supersede as bond to stay the execution of the order if the appellant is an underprivileged and homeless citizen.

No eviction or demolition can be done without the conduct of social preparation activities related to asset reform, human development and basic services, employment and livelihood, and other government programs for the affected underprivileged or homeless person.

A consultation in the form of an inter-agency pre-eviction or pre-demolition conference with the affected citizens shall be convened by the national government agency or the local government unit authorized to evict or demolish.

The local Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel, whose function is to provide law enforcement and civil disturbance control, but not to participate in the physical dismantling of any structure, shall actively participate in the consultation process and their role shall be clearly set forth.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Housing Authority (NHA), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), Department of Health (DOH), appropriate key shelter agencies and barangay concerned shall be represented in the pre-eviction/demolition conference.

The conference shall be held within 72 hours prior to the eviction or demolition date. The conference shall be recorded or documented.

Another eviction/ demolition requirement is a Certificate of Compliance from the PCUP to the actual implementation of the eviction/ demolition activity.

There shall be an observance of a minimum standard of conduct based on the rules of engagement that apply maximum tolerance to prevent violence or the escalation thereof.

Other authors of the bill are Reps. Erlinda M. Santiago, Ibarra "Barry" M. Gutierrez III, Walden F. Bello (Resigned), Cresente C. Paez, Anthony M. Bravo, Benitez, Kaka J. Bag-ao, Maria Leonora Gerona-Robredo, Benjamin D. Asilo, Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte, Gary C. Alejano, Alfredo D. Vargas III, Enrico R. Echiverri, Edgar R. Erice, Roman T. Romulo, Winston "Winnie" Castelo, Fernando L. Hicap, Emmi A. de Jesus, Juan Johnny R. Revilla, and Scott Davies S. Lanete. (House of Representatives)

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