Squatters in UP
Recently, there were a few undesirable events happening at my alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman campus. Last year, a male student was killed by some outsiders or non-students/personnel, said to be from the squatters area. Last week, a rumble occured between outsiders who forced their way inside during the UP Fair, and a member of the UP Police force was badly wounded.
These and related incidents are rooted to one issue in the university: the presence of too many non-UP related residents, aka "squatters". They occupy a big portion of the land area of UP Diliman. So many UP Diliman personnel -- faculty members, administrative staff, etc. have to live in sometimes far away cities and villages because the area occupied by the squatters is big. The same problem is experienced in UP at Los Banos (UPLB). Lots of squatters at Mt. Makiling, UPLB side.
UP is supposed to have property rights on its area. UP's property is UP's property, and it's not a property of the city government or the squatters' association or Congress or the Office of the President.
But everytime the UP adminstration will move to clear those areas of squatters, Mr. Mayor, or Mr. Congressman, some city councilors, etc., will call the UP President or campus Chancellor, asking that certain due processes should be observed, sthat the squatters be spared. They are voters and political supporters (or would-be supporters) of incumbent politicians.
So, how to solve the squatters problem? Along with UP's annual fiscal problem -- every year, UP administrators will beg the support of Malacanang, DBM, Congress and Senate -- UP should become a private university someday.
UP has been a fiscal beggar the past 100 years, even the squatters it can't force out because UP has some political favors to return to Congressmen, Senators, the President, and perhaps even the city Mayor and provincial Governor.
UP's (other state U's) privatization should be coupled by major tax cuts. Cut expenditures, cut taxes, cut bureaucracies.
After all, education is parental responsibility, not government responsibility.
The concept of “property rights", especially private property, becomes diluted, if not becomes a farce, when public authorities come in. Those officials are used to assuming and working with public land, public park, public rivers and oceans, public air space, etc. When a resource is owned by everyone and no one in particular, expect some abuse of that resource. That partly happens in UP.
A related issue among squatters, are former and retired faculty members. They have left many years ago, took consulting work outsize, zero official work with UP, and still occupy those houses in UP meant for faculty members.
Wishing a safer UP campus, an academic-oriented and not a social welfare and public housing campus, is not elitist. It's those people who insist that UP should be a public housing compound who are elitist because they don't understand what an academic environment should be, and yet they impose their concept of social welfare, to the rest of the academic community.
What can solve any conflict of land use in UP is a well-defined property rights. Clearly defining, this part is UP property. Over there is not. Then those squatters, including retired faculty who are no longer connected with UP, should get out, they give UP housing to new and current UP faculty members.
The main decision makers in the university are the UP administrators, not the Office of the President or Congress or the Senate or the City Mayor's Office.
Among the most urgent issues for UP now is how to house its faculty, students, non-acad personnel, so that they won’t have to live far away, where transportation cost and/or rental cost are much higher, which cuts deep into their take-home pay and/or monthly allowances as students.
The space, the housing units are already there, in the case of retired faculty members for instance. Why can’t UP use it for its current faculty members? No need to build new units, it will take years and xx million pesos and new round of political begging with Malacanang, Congress and Senate to approve a new housing program for UP. That is why I suggested that UP should assert its property rights over its properties inside the campus. Those land and housing units occupied by the squatters are owned by UP as an institution – not by the UP administrators, not by Malacanang and Congress, not by the QC Mayor, not by the squatters, not by any bleeding heart lefties or burning heart righties.
If UP becomes a private university – after 1 century of being a fiscal beggar, of being a political eunuch de baog that cannot enforce its property rights – many of those housing and crime problems will be solved, or at least significantly reduced. Even the most interventionist politicians would be ashamed to transgress into private property by private universities. Hence, you don’t hear huge squatter problem, if any, in Ateneo or UE or La Salle or AMA or UE, etc.
A friend suggested to “guarantee long term tenure for the squatters.” This is dangerous. Why would we reward theft of other people’s or institutions’ property with long-term tenure? Are we now rewarding robbery and theft?
If the Philippine State wants, they can cut UP Diliman’s land area from say, 4,000 hectares to only 500 hectares, even 100 hectares, fine. Give all the “freed” land to the squatters, both poor and multi-millionaire squatters alike. Then set UP free as a private university. It will be one huge welfare program by the State where it will distribute lands for free or very cheaply to squatters. Some current universities were just computer and training schools about 2 or 3 decades ago, now they are huge universities putting up campuses left and right. UP with a 10 decades history and has produced some of the brightest minds of this country, should be able to survive and thrive as an autonomous institution.
I will concur that primary education can be State responsibility. Perhaps until high school on some cases. But tertiary education should be private. What I know is that all responsible parents in this country work hard just to bring their kids to a private school somewhere, from pre-nursery to kinder to high school. Not that public elementary education now is complete junk, a few are still good. But the level of inefficiency and waste in public school system is simply high. I talked to a teacher once, who teaches at a private elementary school, and was moving the earth and the moon so she can transfer to a public school. Why? Parents in private schools are very demanding, teachers need to work hard to ensure that their students would learn something useful, and yet the pay is lower. Whereas in public schools, teachers don’t care sometimes if their students won’t learn a thing (average ratio is usually 60 students/teacher) and yet the pay, bonuses and pension are high.
Some parents are just simple and cool. They work hard, they also party hard. They work 6 days a week and also drink 6 nights a week. Well, ok, they don’t drink 6 nights a week, they only gamble 6 nights a week. After all, their children’s education is social and government responsibility, why worry?
* See also: Welfarism 6: Obama and US Entitlement, November 11, 2008