Working Paper

Making Property Rights Accessible: Social Movements and Legal Innovation in the Philippines

Published on 1 January 2005

Today, many rural poor Filipinos are using state law to try to claim land rights. In spite of the availability of a much heftier set of specialised legal resources than ever before, however, claiming legal land rights remains extremely difficult.

Pro-market scholars cite difficult legal problems as a reason to turn away from state-led land reform and toward a market-assisted land reform (MALR) model. Yet, as this paper shows, a closer look at actual dynamics around land reform in the Philippines suggests that political-legal problems associated with implementation of the 1988 agrarian reform law can be overcome under certain conditions.

It is argued that rural poor claimants must have access to a support structure for political-legal mobilisation, particularly ‘rights-advocacy organisation’, and they must adopt an integrated political-legal strategy, in order to effectively push existing constitutional-juridical openings and institutional reforms in favour of land redistribution. An integrated political-legal strategy is one that is capable of activating state agrarian reform law, exploiting independent state actors’ pro-reform initiatives, and resisting the legal and extra-legal manoeuvres of anti-reform elites.

Publication details

published by
Franco, J.C.
IDS Working Paper, issue 244
978 1 85864 870 X


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