Thursday, December 11

Home ownership is in the dock as a court hearing begins tomorrow over evicting a family illegally occupying the ground floor of a Boracay home.

The hearing before the Municipal Circuit Court of Buruanga-Malay has profound implications for the estimated 20 million 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, SandCastles-The Apartments on the main White Beach of Boracay.

The family remains holed up in their home more than five weeks later because of a threat by the invaders, who are led by Editha Cawaling Meren, the sister of the mayor of Boracay, Ceciron Cawaling, that should they leave they will not be able to return to their home.

The invaders have been emboldened by Presidential Decree 1064 and the Supreme Court ruling that Boracay, Bohol, Palawan and many other 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 intruder, 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. The Hutchinsons have not left and could not do so in the first 40 hours after the November 5 invasion as the exits were blocked by Meren and Dalino: The Hutchinsons were illegally detained and terrorised.

"Who would readily give up their home?" asks Ms Hutchinson, who hails from Roxas City in neighboring Capiz. She last set foot on Boracay's white sand on the evening of 5 November with her husband Greg, an Australian journalist and Philippine resident, and their five year old twins Jenet and Joshua, deprived of pre-school education thanks to the invasion.

On Friday, the Hutchinsons go to court for the issue of a Mandatory Temporary Injunction. If the Court acts expeditiously then Filipino homeowners will be the happier and much more secure. 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.

Those who share our concern are asked to lobby their local representative, write letters to editors, blogs and call any powers that be who may make a difference to the Hutchinsons' future and yours.

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