Press release

Philippines: Marcos Administration Must Demonstrate Commitment to Voters, Enact Prodemocracy Reforms

President-elect Marcos has a responsibility and opportunity to honor voters by strengthening freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

Following the apparent election of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as president of the Philippines and Sara Duterte-Carpio as vice president, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The people of the Philippines made their voices heard in this week’s election. President-elect Marcos and Vice President–elect Duterte-Carpio must honor the popular mandate that brought them to power by upholding democratic ideals and the rule of law. The new administration has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to democracy by strengthening checks and balances, ensuring the freedom and safety of journalists, ending the so-called ‘war on drugs’ that has led to thousands of deaths, and taking other concrete steps to reverse a six-year period of democratic decline in the Philippines,” said Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, executive vice president of Freedom House.

“While the election appears to have been fairly administered, free and fair elections themselves are but one step towards achieving genuine democratic rule. Governance in the Philippines heavily favors the country’s elites, the information environment is bombarded with deceptive and inaccurate information, and journalists who criticize and investigate the government face retaliation ranging from egregious harassment to criminal charges. We ardently hope that the incoming administration represents a break from the past, which is marred by the denial of individual rights, and that Marcos and Duterte-Carpio instead preside over a freer and more democratic era for their country.”

Background

On May 10, following a general election, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, respectively emerged as the presumed president-elect and vice president-elect of the Philippines.

Although the Philippines transitioned from authoritarian to democratic rule in 1986, the rule of law and application of justice are haphazard and heavily favor political and economic elites. The country has a history of violent insurgencies, though their threat to the state has diminished in recent years. Impunity remains the norm for violent crimes against activists and journalists, and Duterte’s war on drugs has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings since 2016. Government officials and their supporters also employ red-tagging—a tactic of accusing targets of links to communist groups—to harass and intimidate journalists, celebrities, and everyday internet users.

The Philippine online information landscape is plagued by disinformation, with hyperpartisan news outlets and online commentators routinely publishing misleading and false content, especially during electoral periods. Journalists, activists, and ordinary voters have faced sustained online harassment, as well as criminal and civil penalties, for expressing their views. Independent news outlets and the websites of civil society groups have also been subjected to cyberattacks, particularly if they are known for critical reporting on the government.

The Philippines is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2022, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2021, and has a risk score of 55 out of 100 in Freedom House’s Election Vulnerability Index.