Somera vs professional squatting syndicates

PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino on Friday said he has received initial information that slain DZME anchor Merlina Flores-Sumera could have been ordered liquidated by a group of a professional squatting syndicate whom she was up against over a property dispute in Maysilo, Malabon City.

The term “professional squatting syndicates” is not new, and the people behind these groups are older now but they still practice the same scheme:  scouting every available vacant lot (government or privately-owned) including “sidewalks” and river banks mostly within Metro Manila where they can build houses made of light materials and eventually earn from it in various ways. The syndicate leaders are usually faceless and nameless, have no permanent addresses to speak of, but they wield power as they play roles as toughies in their neighborhood that would bring trouble to anybody who crosses their path.


Their modus operandi is simple: First, they would scout for a vacant lot. Slowly, and during nighttime, they would bring along light materials and build homes. They then would look for other homeless people and encourage them to rent the homes they built for a minimal fee.

Since there is no basic amenity at first, the leaders of the syndicate would later illegally tap water and electricity for their “customers” who would also be required to pay minimal fees in exchange for their (illegal) services.

Soon, the syndicate would put up a small sari-sari store which would sell basic commodities and at the same time serve as the syndicate’s “business center” for their new “neighborhood association.” After they have organized their operations, they would leave behind one of their syndicate members to manage their “business” and again scout for another vacant lot to establish the same system and operations there.

They exist in almost all of the depressed areas in Metro Manila where “informal settlers” thrive. And in case private lot owner or the government tries to shoo them away, they would invoke the so-called Lina Law which provides that any would-be evicted squatter has to be provided with a “pabaon” and a resettlement area prior to their eviction.


In Sumera’s case, she was the president of a bonafide beneficiary neighborhood association in Maysilo and was in charge of the “re-blocking and chopping” of a 4.2 hectare government land awarded to them thru the National Housing Authority which is being opposed by a group of “professional squatters” living within the contested area.

By deductions, the people behind her death are easy to pinpoint. The suspects stand to benefit from it. Maybe the word “squatters” (that had mushroomed in Metro Manila due to poverty) was re-labeled as informal settlers because it is demeaning to them.

I won’t be surprised if the PNP investigators would soon coin the word “professional informal settlers” syndicate in the succeeding reports of their quest to capture Sumera’s killers.


For feedback and comments, please email me at Romie A. Evangelista

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