There is something particularly bothersome with the condescending arrogance displayed by some people with regard the issue of the urban poor and their problem on housing. Relying on pure legalese, they forward an overly simplified position that since “squatters” do not own the land where their shanties are built on, they deserve to be evicted–by force–using the entire arsenal of the state, to protect the property rights of the owners.
These people fail to recognize the social context of the problem. A fourth of Metro Manila, a staggering 584,425 families according to the National Housing Authority, are informal settlers. When the problem affects a significant portion of the population it ceases from becoming a purely legal problem of property rights and land ownership. It becomes a tragic social phenomenon, in much the same way as peasant landlessness is, and thus calls for fundamental political and economic solutions like agrarian land reform. It is a social phenomenon because it finds its roots in political and economic forces that compel hundreds of thousands of Filipino families to move to urban centers and “squat” on idle lands.
If you think squatters are not entitled to live in their homes, you might as well ask for the eviction of a fourth of Metro Manila for squatting on idle lands. Wow. If you don’t realize it, many of Manila’s laborers come form the urban poor. They do everything from cooking and serving your food, doing your laundry, and ironically–building your homes. You might as well ask for the paralysis of economic activity in the national capital.