Filipino Women and rights to property

Filipino women have bloomed, whatever positions they hold, whether in the local arena or overseas. Filipinas are also leading the way for others around the world to freely access their rights as human beings. And, many laws and policies have supported and sustained their efforts. 

Before National Women’s Month comes to a close, let us revisit legislative measures that have incorporated state policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and property rights. 

Magna Carta Of Women (MCW)  

In 2009, the State, through Republic Act 9710, affirmed “the role of women in nation building and…substantive equality of women and men.” It upheld and mandated the promotion of Filipino women’s rights while eliminating discrimination against them, and highlighted the following:

a. the right to protection and security in times of disasters, calamities, and other crisis situations, especially in all phases of relief, recovery, rehabilitation, and construction efforts; and be provided immediate humanitarian assistance, allocation of resources, and early resettlement, if necessary;

b. be given equal rights to marriage and family relations, such as the acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment, disposition of property; and inheritance, whether formal or customary;

c. be given equal status, whether married or not, in the titling of the land and issuance of stewardship contracts and patents;

d. in marginalized sectors, be guaranteed civil, political, social, and economic rights; and be protected under existing laws;

e. conferred equal treatment as/on (i) beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program; (ii) customary rights to the land, including access to and control of the fruits and benefits; (iii) information and assistance in claiming rights to the enjoyment, use, and management of land, water, and other natural resources within their communities or ancestral domains; (iv) access to the use and management of fisheries and aquatic resources, and all rights and benefits accruing to stakeholders in the fishing industry; (v) issuance of stewardship or lease agreements and other fishery rights that may be granted for the use and management of coastal and aquatic resources; (vi) treatment of women’s organization as with other marginalized fishers organizations in the issuance of stewardship or lease agreements or other fishery rights; (vii) recognition, encouragement and protection of indigenous practices of women in seed storage and cultivation;  (viii) equal rights and wider access to and control of the means of production; including opportunities for empowering women fishers to be involved in the control and management of aquamarine resources, and entrepreneurial activities; and (ix) economic opportunities for the indigenous women, particularly access to market for their produce;

f. be given equal rights to housing, especially in the development of programs that are localized, simple, accessible, with potable water and electricity, secure, with viable employment opportunities and affordable amortization; and consulted/be involved in community planning and development, and matters pertaining to land use, zoning, and relocation.

Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL)

RA 6657 expanded land reform by including private and public agricultural lands, regardless of crops and tenure arrangements, and distributed them to landless farmers and farm workers within ten years of its enactment. This was subsequently extended under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform with Extended Reforms (CARPer) Law or RA 9700. 

CARL guaranteed women, regardless of civil status, equal rights to own land, equal shares of farm produce, and representation in advisory and decision-making bodies. Meanwhile, the Department of Agrarian Reform issued guidelines governing gender equality in the implementation of agrarian laws and mainstreaming Gender and Development (GAD) in their agency, such as requiring titles to be issued in both husband and wife’s names, or couple living in consensual union “when spouses are jointly working and cultivating common tillage.” 

Women In Development And Nation Building Act

Enacted in 1992, RA 7192 aimed to promote the integration of women as full and equal partners of men in development and national building as espoused by the 1987 Constitution, and expressly granted women the capacity to act and enter into contracts equal to that of men. 

Importantly, women were given: (a) capacity to borrow, obtain loans and execute security and credit arrangements; (b) equal access to all government and private sector programs granting agricultural credit, loans, and enjoy equal treatment in agrarian reform and land resettlement programs; and (c) equal rights to act as incorporators and enter into insurance contracts. 

Family Code of the Philippines, as Amended

Welcomed by many as a victory for women’s rights, the Family Code eliminated many inequalities between men and women. A written consent from both partners is now required, regardless whether the property was acquired by both or only one of the partners and acquired during the marriage or co-habitation, unless specifically excluded by law.

It should be emphasized that in Article 147,  full-time housewives are considered equals as “… a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.”

Gaps still exist.  Examples include the following:

• While women have the legal right to independently enter into contract/s, many institutions still require the male partner to co-sign loans and contracts, making women’s access to credit limited. This is contrary to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

• While the Family Code provides for equal co-ownership, administration and enjoyment of community property, as well as joint exercise of legal guardianship over the un-emancipated common child’s property, in case of disagreement, the husband’s decision prevails, subject to wife’s recourse to the courts, and which must be availed of within five years from the date of the contract implementing such decision.

“WE [are] for gender equality and inclusive society.” Women need our support. 

References include: Country Profiles: Philippines – Intra-household Rights to Land and Gender Differences (; Policy Brief No. 1: Ensuring Women’s Equal Rights in Marriage and Family Relations (; “Protecting Women’s Human Rights: A Case Study in the Philippines” by Tamar Ezer, Arwen Joyce, Priscila McCalley and Neil Pacamalan, Human Rights Brief 18, no. 3 (2011); and various laws cited above.

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Henry L. Yap is an architect, fellow in environmental planning, fellow in real estate management, and one of the undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.