The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) expresses its full support to the urban poor of the Philippines who since March 8, 2017, International Working Women’s Day, have been occupying 6000 vacant housing units in the province of Bulacan, north of Manila.
The ILPS salutes the masses of the urban poor, their militant organization, the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY-National Alliance of Filipino Urban Poor) and the progressive organizations supporting the right of the poor to affordable and decent housing.
The masses of the urban poor have every right to occupy public housing projects built by the government for them but have remained unoccupied and left rotting for years. There is no reason why there should ever be vacant government-made housing units in a sea of homeless people in the Philippines.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte should renounce his previous analysis of the urban poor actions as “anarchy” that goes against his so-called “law and order”.
The urban poor in the Philippines, like in many countries in the world, suffer from landlessness, joblessness, hunger and destitution because of the implementation of economic policies benefitting imperialists and big comprador-capitalists and landlords. These were further worsened by the implementation of neoliberal policies implemented in the late 1970s and consolidated in the 1990s.
Duterte’s policies resemble that of his predecessor, former Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was known for violent demolitions of urban poor communities in Metro Manila, and the dumping of the urban poor in relocation sites outside Metro Manila where there are no jobs and no basic services like electricity and drinking water.
Duterte has continued such neoliberal economic policies. Morever, his “war on drugs” does not address the socio-economic causes of widespread drug abuse in the country; does not target the big drug lords and their protectors in the military, police and civilian bureaucracy. It only victimizes the small time drug users among the urban poor.
It is in this context that the Philippine urban poor’s occupation of vacant housing projects must be understood. Contrary to Duterte’s claim that the urban poor violated the law, progressive lawyers point to provisions of the Philippine Constitution about the duty of the state “to make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas.”
Beyond questions of legality, however, the urban poor are countering the injustice that is being committed against them and are calling for justice. Their action does not constitute “anarchy” but is an organized and militant assertion of their right and focuses on their intolerable plight and the socio-economic system responsible for that plight.
We therefore condemn Duterte’s threat of ordering an “eviction” of the urban poor who are occupying the vacant housing projects. Instead of evicting the people he should do everything within his powers to immediately and legally grant the housing units to the occupiers.
There are 15,000 vacant housing units in Bulacan, 6000 of which are occupied by the urban poor.
Duterte should immediately investigate the reason for the years of delay in the awarding of all the housing units to the urban poor. It is revolting to think that high-ranking government bureaucrats, deeming the urban poor incapable of paying the high amortization for the housing units, decided not to grant the housing units to them.
Duterte should overhaul the previous administrations’ profit-motivated approach to housing, in which housing projects are contracted out to private corporations which then impose high rents upon the poor. He should junk the Urban Development Housing Act or UDHA, which has enabled such an approach for the past 25 years.
We likewise condemn recent trends in imperialist discourse about the urban poor that promotes “slums of hope” where there is supposedly order and solidarity. The imperialists, recognizing their inability to solve poverty, are making a virtue out of necessity by merely rebranding the squalor and indignity being inflicted on the urban poor.
The answer to the economic marginalization of the urban poor is not more rhetoric. The answer lies in the struggle to end the causes of poverty brought about by imperialism and its reactionary allies the world over. The answer lies in achieving genuine freedom, democracy and socialism in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world.
We are calling on all ILPS member-organizations to show their support for the urban poor of the Philippines and Kadamay, particularly on March 24, which Kadamay has called the “International Day of Action for Mass Housing in the Philippines.”
The struggle of the urban poor in the Philippines and other countries serves as inspiration to all anti-imperialist forces around the world to intensify efforts to arouse, organize and mobilize the urban poor to fight for mass housing and against US imperialism and all reaction.