There are over 3 million homeless people in the Philippines, one of the highest in the world, despite the country being a party to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  About 1.2 million of the homeless are children. They form part of the 12 million people considered poor in the country. With no decent housing, no stable jobs and little access to basic social services like education and health care, many of the homeless are vulnerable to discrimination, crime, substance abuse and other human rights violations.

In April 2017, thousands of homeless people led by urban poor group Kadamay occupied several government housing projects in the town of Pandi, Bulacan in a courageous assertion of the right to decent housing in what has come to be known as the #OccupyPabahay incident. Government forces were initially dispatched to the area to disperse the #Occupy members, but the government, recognizing that it has been remiss in its duties of providing decent housing to the population, eventually acknowledged the #Occupy members’ ownership of the housing units they occupied. This signaled a victory to the urban poor, who for years have been relegated to the sidelines. Many of the urban poor become homeless because of government-approved demolitions of urban poor communities, depriving the urban poor of shelter and thus adding them to the already large number of homeless people in the country.

The #OccupyPabahay movement has spread like wildfire in the country, and numerous other #Occupy actions have been initiated, including #OccupyLuisita and #OccupyLapanday, where farmers who are beneficiaries of agrarian reform asserted their right to reclaim their lands from giant agricorporations owned by some of the country’s most elite families.

(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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