The benefits of a property rights system founded on what Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto identifies as a “strong, well-integrated social contract” can hardly be argued against when transplanted in the Philippine setting. In Metro Manila, the urban poor have been steadily carving out a sizable niche for themselves within the margins of the formal economy, straddling the line between legal and extralegal notions of property, and generally going about the business of living under the ambivalently watchful eye of the government. While property ownership, as it is generally defined by statutes and special laws, conveys a tenor of predictability and regularity, the rise in the informal acquisition of urban housing – be it a cardboard box or a sturdier structure made of wood and cement – is redefining traditional, even feudal, concepts of property by the introduction of the right to housing as a collective human right. This paper begins with the question “what is housing?” to better locate the concept of “squatting” – specifically, spontaneous urban settlement – within the context of informal economies. By examining (a) an actual scenario of slum dwelling in the Philippines; (b) applicable laws; and (c) related jurisprudence, this paper attempts to provide new insights on how to better improve the conditions of the country’s urban poor, such as the creative use of metalegal strategies to “fill in the gaps” where the law and the government agencies tasked with the promotion of development policies fall disappointingly short.
Note – a root from Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Series One. Breaking the Silence
Author: Patricia Blardony Miranda
Output: Human Rights In Southeast Asia Series