Toilets and the Right to Housing

The 21st century and still lots of Filipinos without toilets. People walking about with the latest from Apple soaked in the most expensive perfume armed with a bag that can buy a whole village; on the other hand, people defecating in the field because they don’t have toilets. Both are stripped of dignity. The first, for refusing to know better.

The graph drawn from NSO APIS 2008 seen alongside that of the status in housing and land tenure shows that where many who don’t own their land/lots are found is also where many don’t have toilets. Coincidence? No. I mentioned in an earlier article that binding arrangements between tenants and landowners are onerous to tenants, and among the things prohibited them is putting up of permanent structures such as toilets.

It’s not enough that pencils or slippers are distributed because these though well-meaning do not in the long run change the status quo. Rules of the game (institutions) must be changed to include those who are excluded from the game and marginalized because of such rules. By having the excluded participate, they themselves will in the long run take care of their own needs. And we don’t anymore need to distribute pencils every school year. It’s going to be as with children in the developed countries, school children contributing some of their lunch money to help their peers in other countries.

The Right to Housing entails government to protect individuals against infringement by others, such as protecting tenants belonging to a minority against discrimination and exploitation by house owners belonging to the majority. Who for example in Mindanao are the tenants and who are the house or land owners? Often it is that we raise our fists at “imperialist countries” but perhaps that fist is really aimed at us? In Mindanao, have mainstream Filipinos turned imperialists against their own? Tragic, because it punishes not only Juan but even his bowels. And we said it’s poverty, blaming “lazy poor” Juan.

The issue of toilets is just the tip of the iceberg. Related issues such as sewerage and treatment and clean water are significant problems on their own.


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