MEDIA RELEASE: December 17, 2008

Court to Decide Aussie Resort Family's Fate

An Australian family held hostage in their own Philippine island resort will hope for a swift decision when a final day of court hearings to expel their armed captors winds up on Friday. Tension has been especially high since owner Greg Hutchinson was shot at last Sunday.

With Christmas fasting approaching, the family is dreading Australian and Philippine authorities will leave them and their Boracay Island resort to the uncertain and scary fate of their captors.

Greg, his wife Viveca and their 5-year-old twins Jenet and Joshua, have spent more than six frightening weeks holed up in their penthouse apartment since 20 plus armed thugs led by a local politician’s sister smashed their way into Boracay SandCastles Beach Resort and took it over, defying a court order in the Hutchinsons’ favour.

The Police, under an instruction that the invasion had “the blessing of the mayor”, failed to intervene to stop the injustice despite the court order and have since insisted the Hutchinsons get a second court order before the Police will act to remove the invaders. Confirmation of the involvement of Mayor Ceciron Cawaling came with the discovery of a water connection from the mayor’s house to the resort. “Unfortunately, he’s not being neutral. The mayor is giving the illegal invaders led by his sister comfort and aid. What’s in it for him?” asked a witness who showed Hutchinson who took a picture of the pipe.

The impact of the decision of the Municipal Circuit Court of Buruanga-Malay may be far wider than the mere fate of the Hutchinsons and their resort because it will be the first test of a controversial new law, known as Presidential Decree 1064, that threatens to deprive millions of people of their land.

“It has profound implications for the millions of Filipinos who currently believe their home is their castle and no one else’s,” declares Viveca Ferrer Hutchinson.

She and her Filipino-Australian family were detained against their will for 40 hours following the November 5 invasion of their home, the penthouse of SandCastles—The Apartments, the 5-star section of their resort on the main White Beach of Boracay. Exits were blocked and the Apartment front door was jammed by the invaders from the outside.

Since then the family has remained trapped, with the mayor’s sister Editha Cawaling Meren, her family and some 20 armed men and women controlling the ground floor of the Apartments and the rest of the Boracay SandCastles Beach Resort, keeping them pinned down to the second and third floors of the Apartments.

The invaders have been emboldened by Presidential Decree 1064 and a recent Supreme Court ruling that Boracay and most of the Philippines’ tourism hotspot islands are principally public lands, believing correctly as it turns out, that authorities will be more reluctant to intervene in favor of the recognised land holder or homeowner.

“The Philippines’ 20 million home owners across the country beware: YOU COULD BE NEXT!”, says Ms Hutchinson.

“The HOME INVASION doctrine is taking hold. Boracay is only the beginning if courts don’t act fast and Police don’t come to their senses and defend a family’s home.”

This means, explains Ms Hutchinson, that if someone with guns, political connections or money covets your house he can enter it and remain until you get out yourself or coexist until you can get a court order to have him expelled.

“You cannot rely on the Police until you acquire a court order. No amount of ownership documents will persuade officers of the law to intervene unless they see a COURT ORDER. Police are scared to act in case they face administrative charges, or their seniority gets stalled.”

“Ah, but will they then act on the basis of the court order that you do get eventually? They didn’t in our case.”

“That’s the scarier scenario for every Filipino householder,” Ms Hutchinson says.

Take the case of the Hutchinson family: They have been besieged in their own home in Boracay now for more than five weeks after armed men led by sister of the mayor Editha Meren barged into their home, smashing three tempered glass doors and putting guns to the heads of their staff with the threat: RESIST AND YOU GET SHOT.

Meren entered their home, SandCastles—The Apartments, defying a court order against her and without a court order of her own. She had not a single piece of paper suggesting a claim of ownership of a property she owned a long 25 years earlier. The Hutchinsons bought the land 12 years ago from a vendor in good faith and for valuable consideration.

Meren, with a fellow invasion leader, Evangeline Dizon Dalino, is still ensconced in SandCastles—The Apartments, occupying the ground floor and preventing the free ingress and egress of the Hutchinson family with the threat: YOU GO AND YOU CANNOT RETURN.

“Who would readily give up their home?” asks Ms Hutchinson. Twins Jenet and Joshua have been deprived of pre-school education thanks to the invasion.

On Friday, the Hutchinsons hope the court will issue a Mandatory Temporary Injunction that will return Boracay SandCastles Beach Resort and SandCastles—The Apartments to them..

If the Court acts expeditiously Filipino homeowners will be the better for it.

If the Court delays—or God forbid denies—the Motion 20 million Filipino homeowners should beware: YOUR HOME IS NO LONGER YOUR CASTLE and your home could be the next to be invaded under the HOME INVASION doctrine.

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