The state of civic space in the Philippines remains “repressed,” according to a recent report published by the CIVICUS Monitor on October 11.
Recent concerns encompass activist arrests on fabricated charges, “red-tagging” of human rights defenders, posing risks of arrest or harm, and documented harassment of journalists.
The report noted the denial of the Philippine government to recognize the investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into killings that occurred during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.
It said human rights violations persist under the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., citing the Human Rights Watch’s statement that Marcos Jr. has yet to revoke executive orders that grant extensive powers to the police for anti-drug operations, which have led to numerous unlawful killings.
In recent months, authorities have intensified efforts to charge ten activists with perjury, reigniting judicial harassment against them, according to the report.
These cases have prompted 41 civil society organizations to condemn the renewed harassment and call for the immediate dropping of charges.
In June 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Council designated five indigenous people’s leaders and advocates as terrorists, freezing their assets and funds. Four of these leaders are associated with the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA.
The report also claimed that the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) has been used to suppress and persecute human rights defenders in the Southern Tagalog region.
As of July 2023, up to 13 human rights defenders in the region have been targeted with trumped-up criminal complaints under the ATA.
The report raised the alarm over the abductions of activists, citing the case of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, two young women environmental advocates who were abducted by unidentified individuals in September 2023 and reappeared nearly two weeks later.
The report said the abduction is part of a “concerning pattern” in the Philippines, where environmental and grassroots activists are targeted for kidnapping or “red-tagged” as communist sympathizers.
The CIVICUS Monitor is a global research initiative and an online platform that assesses and rates the state of civic space and civil society in countries around the world.
It evaluates the conditions and freedoms for civil society organizations, activists, journalists, and citizens to operate and express themselves.
The monitor provides ratings such as “open,” “narrowed,” “obstructed,” and “repressed” to classify the state of civic space in different countries based on various factors, including government policies, legal restrictions, and instances of civil society harassment or suppression.