Philippines

Partly Free
55
100
PR Political Rights 25 40
CL Civil Liberties 30 60
Last Year's Score & Status
56 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Although the Philippines transitioned from authoritarian rule in 1986, the rule of law and application of justice are haphazard and heavily favor political and economic elites. Democratic institutions that provide oversight and accountability are either weak or undermined. Long-term violent insurgencies have continued for decades, though their threat to the state has diminished in recent years. Impunity remains the norm for violent crimes against activists and journalists, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings since it began in 2016.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • The Duterte administration assumed an increasingly hostile stance toward academics and universities that teach allegedly “subversive” materials. In January, authorities published the names of 27 University of the Philippines (UP) graduates, claiming they were members of the Communist Party and endangering them to be targeted with harassment, at the very least. Between September and November, an arm of the Duterte administration compelled at least four universities to remove and turn over all books about communism and “subversive” ideologies from their libraries.
  • In September, the Senate launched an investigation into the Duterte administration’s purchase of 67 billion pesos ($1.3 billion) worth of overpriced medical supplies and expired COVID-19 testing kits. Initially flagged for irregularities by the Commission on Audit in August, Duterte refused to cooperate with the investigation and prohibited his staff from attending an inquiry.
  • On one day in March, referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” nine activists were killed and six were arrested in provinces just outside the capital region. Two days prior, President Duterte had publicly stated that the police and the military should eradicate and kill communists in the country.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The president is both head of state and head of government and is directly elected to a single six-year term. Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 presidential election with 39 percent of the vote. While polling was marked by dozens of violent episodes, including a number of killings, there were fewer such incidents compared to previous election years. Vote buying was also reported.

The vice president is directly elected on a separate ticket and may serve up to two successive six-year terms. Maria Leonor Robredo won the closely contested vice presidency in 2016 with 35 percent of the vote.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The 24 members of the Senate are elected on a nationwide ballot and serve six-year terms, with half of the seats up for election every three years. The 299 members of the House of Representatives serve three-year terms, with 241 elected in single-member constituencies and the remainder elected through party-list voting.

Midterm elections for both houses of Congress and local government offices were held in May 2019. Despite a ballot redesign that led to a substantial party-list undervote, along with reports of vote buying and some election-related violence, the polls were generally perceived as credible. Though no single party won an outright majority in either house, pro-Duterte parties, including the newly formed Alliance for Change (HNP), created by the president’s daughter Sara Duterte, secured majority alliances in both houses. The opposition Liberal Party did not win a single seat in the Senate.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

The president appoints the Commission on Elections (Comelec), whose performance was generally deemed competent in 2016, though they were criticized for technical glitches and procurement issues that occurred in the 2019 midterm elections. The Comelec performs both election management and adjudication functions. Frequent litigation complicates the interpretation of electoral laws and makes the already complex framework even less accessible to the public.

In March 2021, the Commission on Appointments confirmed Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio as Comelec Commissioner. In November, Rey Bulay joined the Comelec, the sixth member of the seven-person panel appointed by Duterte. The majority of Duterte appointees are from his home region of Davao.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

The Philippines has a strong record of open competition among multiple parties, though candidates and political parties typically have weak ideological profiles. Legislative coalitions are exceptionally fluid, and politicians often change party affiliation, typically to join the dominant bloc or the incumbent president’s party.

In the past three decades, political dynasties have become more prevalent and more powerful, and hold many provincial governorships and a significant number of seats in Congress.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 2.002 4.004

The Philippines has seen regular rotations of power at the national level. However, in recent years opposition politicians have faced increasing harassment, and some have been arrested on charges denounced by the opposition and rights groups as politically motivated. An atmosphere of violence and a lack access to state resources for those not in power hinder the opposition’s ability to challenge incumbents. Campaign finance rules, which make elections very costly, impede the ability of grassroots movements to mobilize, participate in, and win elections.

In February 2020, former senator Antonio Trillanes and others were indicted on charges of sedition as part of an alleged plot to oust Duterte. Senator Leila de Lima, one of the most outspoken critics of Duterte’s war on drugs, remained in pretrial detention throughout her term. De Lima was arrested in 2017 on charges of accepting money from drug dealers and is recognized as a prisoner of conscience by international rights groups. In July 2021, she announced that she would seek reelection while in detention.

In 2021, the Duterte government intensified its campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Senior government officials openly “red-tagged” (the tactic of alleging that an individual harbors communist, and thus terrorist sympathies or connections, resulting in stigmatization and increased risk of physical attack) members of the House of Representatives. The accused representatives subsequently received death threats.

The government labeled Makabayan bloc in November 2020 and the Kabataan Party-list in June 2021 as “legal fronts” for the Communist Party of the Philippines. The Office of the Solicitor General requested the disqualification of the Kabataan Party-list and the Gabriela Women’s Party, which advocates for women’s rights, from the 2022 elections, which had not occurred as of December 2021.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Distribution of power is heavily affected by patronage and kinship networks. In the past 30 years, political dynasties have expanded, and analysts believe they will continue to increase in number and scope. Groups competing for party-list seats are frequently dominated by a few political families, and recent elections have increased the concentration of power into those families’ hands. Election-related funding also contributes to the concentration of power: there are no limits on campaign contributions, and a significant portion of political donations come from a relatively small number of donors.

Social media platforms, especially Facebook, have been weaponized and exploited by Duterte and his supporters. In October 2020, Facebook removed hundreds of accounts for violating its policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.” One network originated in China, while another, which was linked to the Philippine police and military, criticized activists and the political opposition. Without challenging the findings, Duterte issued vague threats regarding Facebook’s operations in the country.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

No laws limit the participation of specific groups in the political process, and the constitution guarantees equal access to opportunities for public service. However, the dominance of political dynasties is an obstacle to the exercise of political rights for some groups. While women make up about 28 percent of the legislature, political life is dominated by men and few women are elected to positions in the national legislature from outside of the few politically powerful families. Muslims and Indigenous groups are not well represented. Perceptions of relative socioeconomic deprivation and political disenfranchisement, along with resentment toward Christian settlements in traditionally Muslim areas, have played a central role in the Philippines’ Muslim separatist movements.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the party-list portion of the ballot for the House of Representatives, meant to ensure representation for marginalized or underrepresented groups, could also be open to national political parties, if they did not stand in the single-member constituency contests. In 2019, several party-list groups gained seats not by representing the sectors or interests as intended, but through substantial support from kinship networks in single geographic regions and through links with the Duterte administration.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3.003 4.004

While elected government officials and legislative representatives determine state policies, the president dominates policymaking due to a political system that grants significant powers to the executive branch. A few dozen families continue to hold a disproportionate share of political authority. Several of Duterte’s children hold elected office and exert increasing influence.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

Government corruption and impunity remain serious problems. The courts and other anticorruption institutions have failed to hold powerful politicians and their associates to account. President Duterte has fired numerous officials due to corruption, but his anticorruption drive has ultimately led to few convictions. Officials involved in corrupt activities are often reappointed to other offices.

The official anticorruption agencies, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), have mixed records. The PACC lacks enforcement capabilities and has been led by known Duterte allies. The Ombudsman, tasked with investigating and filing complaints against government workers and officials, is poorly resourced. It has focused on major cases against senior government officials and those involving large sums of money, some of which languish for years in the Sandiganbayan (anticorruption court). Currently headed by a Duterte appointee, the Ombudsman’s performance has received criticism for the significant decrease in the number of cases filed since 2018.

The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been dogged by allegations of incompetence, negligence, and corruption at the national and local levels. In April 2020, senators called for the secretary of health’s resignation for perceived deficiencies in addressing the pandemic; investigations in 2020 and 2021 into the Department of Health (DOH) found procurement anomalies and other problems. Also in 2020, an anticorruption task forced exposed numerous instances of fraud, overpriced supplies, and other misdeeds within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, leading to charges against high-level government officers. In June 2021, these charges were dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman. In September, the Senate launched an investigation into the Duterte administration’s purchase of 67 billion pesos ($1.3 billion) worth of overpriced medical supplies and expired COVID-19 testing kits. Initially flagged for irregularities by the Commission on Audit in August, Duterte refused to cooperate with the investigation and prohibited his staff from attending an inquiry.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

Government transparency remains limited despite some positive initiatives. Local governments have been required to post procurement and budget data on their websites, and the national government has instituted participatory budgeting at various levels. The country’s first freedom of information directive was issued by Duterte in 2016, but it mandates public disclosure only in the executive branch and allows major exemptions.

The DOH has failed to publish details regarding the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, including for large quantities of the Chinese government’s Sinovac vaccine. The Senate’s investigations into fraud allegations in the DOH have not obtained this information, due to various confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements.

Duterte has refused to release a filing known as a statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN); all previous presidents made the disclosure, pursuant to a 1989 law. The Ombudsman has restricted public access to elected congressmembers and government officials’ SALNs, asserting they were being “weaponized.” The office announced they were no longer conducting “lifestyle checks” that investigate officials’ apparent unexplained wealth.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

The constitution provides for freedoms of expression and the press, and private media are vibrant and outspoken. However, the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, and the president’s hostile rhetoric toward members of the media exacerbates an already perilous situation. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has found that attacks and threats on the media have continued relentlessly throughout the Duterte administration, and state agencies have made no serious efforts to investigate serious incidents or otherwise address the problem. Journalists experience physical attacks; threats, including death threats and bomb threats; smear campaigns claiming they conspire against the government; red-tagging; and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 11 journalists have been killed in the Philippines in connection with their work since 2016. In July 2021, a radio journalist was shot by an unidentified gunman; and in December, a newspaper reporter was shot by unknown assailants. The vast majority of violent attacks remain unpunished. In December 2019, however, a trial court found dozens of defendants guilty for the brutal massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao in 2009. Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the most prominent defendant, was sentenced to life in prison.

Other obstacles to press freedom include Executive Order 608, which established a National Security Clearance System to protect classified information, and the Human Security Act, which allows journalists to be wiretapped based on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Libel is a criminal offense, and libel cases have been used frequently to quiet criticism of public officials.

In June 2020, Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, and Reynaldo Santos Jr. were found guilty of cyberlibel and sentenced to six years in prison. In August 2021, a Manila court dismissed a libel case against the online news site Rappler, Ressa, and other codefendants; another libel case had been dismissed a couple of months earlier. A new case was filed against Rappler and six other organizations in December by Duterte’s secretary of energy. Rappler, which has criticized Duterte’s war on drugs, had its corporate registration revoked by government regulators in 2018 for violating the prohibition on foreign ownership and control of Philippine media outlets. Rappler reporters were accused by Duterte of being part of a “fake news outlet,” and banned from government events and from conducting interviews with state officials.

In 2020, ABS-CBN, the oldest and largest media network in the country, shut down its broadcast operations following the expiration of its operating license. Duterte had accused the network of bias against him and openly threatened to close it down since the 2016 campaign. The shutdown was condemned by numerous press freedom and human rights advocacy groups. In July 2021, ABS-CBN published online a list of the 70 lawmakers who voted to end the media franchise.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution and generally respected in practice. Under the Duterte administration, priests critical of the drug war have been killed and threatened. During the COVID-19 lockdown between July and August 2021, churches were not allowed to hold public religious services, though Duterte and his supporters held political rallies.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

Academic freedom at the country’s many public and private schools is generally respected, though the government has increasingly taken on a hostile stance toward academic independence, particularly the teaching of communist texts. In January 2021, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Civil-Military Relations Office published the names of 27 University of the Philippines (UP) graduates, claiming they were members of the Communist Party. The release of the graduates’ names endangered the individuals to be targeted with harassment, at the very least. In the same month, the 1989 accord between UP and the Department of National Defense (DND) was terminated, enabling police and military forces to enter public universities and arrest participants of antigovernment protests en mass.

Between September and November 2021, the National Task force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), arms of the Duterte administration, compelled at least four universities to remove and turn over all books about communism and “subversive” ideologies from their libraries. Authorities closed 55 Indigenous primary schools in the Davao region in 2019 following allegations that the schools were teaching leftist ideology.

Security forces have increasingly monitored Islamic schools and schools attended by Indigenous peoples in areas of the southern Philippines where the military conducts counterinsurgency and antiterror missions. In October 2020, the military’s top general stated that the armed forces would monitor the estimated 500 Islamic schools in the country as possible recruitment sites for militants, sparking criticism by Muslim religious leaders. A January 2020 proposal by the police chief of Manila to compile lists of all Muslim students in high schools and universities in the city was rescinded following condemnation by citizens and rights groups.

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the government terminated limits on military and police operations at the University of the Philippines, red-tagged graduates of the university, and pushed several universities to purge their libraries of books associated with communist ideology.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

Social media use is very widespread in the Philippines, but rights groups have expressed concern about threats against and censorship of online criticism and the criminalization of allegedly libelous social media posts. Arrests increased following the March 2020 enactment of an emergency law, Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which used overly broad language to criminalize the posting of fake news. Within weeks, investigators summoned over a dozen people for their social media posts. A human rights lawyer who had described the arrests as having a chilling effect was publicly attacked and insulted by Duterte, and multiple people who posted criticism or satirical posts about Duterte and the government were charged with crimes, including cyberlibel.

In April 2021, community pantries, set up to alleviate the rise in food scarcity and economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, became targets of red-tagging. Organizers of the initiatives were accused on social media by pro-Duterte groups of being fronts for the communist movement and staging the pantries to recruit members. Several organizers feared that this red-tagging would result in harassment from law enforcement and others.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 2.002 4.004

Citizen activism is robust, and demonstrations are common. However, permits are required for rallies, and police sometimes use violence to disperse antigovernment protests.

Complaints of insufficient government aid amid the strict COVID-19 lockdown spurred protests that led to dozens of detentions and arrests in 2020. In addition, arrests occurred amid protests led by progressive organizations against the Anti-Terrorism Act signed into law in July 2020; protesters were charged with violating both pandemic-related restrictions and public assembly laws. While those demonstrators were charged for violating restrictions, in 2021, members of Duterte’s party held mass political gatherings ahead of the 2022 elections, despite lockdown restrictions.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Civil society has historically been robust in the Philippines, which hosts a range of active human rights, social welfare, environmental, and other groups. However, assassinations of civil society activists and human rights defenders continue; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and activists experience harassment and arrest; and President Duterte’s public threats against those who oppose his policies have exacerbated an already dangerous atmosphere of impunity.

In August 2021, Rex Fernandez, a human rights lawyer, was shot and killed by a gunman in Cebu. Fernandez was the third lawyer killed in Cebu in 2021. During the Duterte presidency, 66 lawyers have been killed and many have been harassed. On one day in March 2021, referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” nine activists were killed and six were arrested in provinces just outside the capital region. Two days prior, President Duterte had publicly stated that the police and the military should eradicate and kill communists in the country.

In July 2020, the government’s Commission on Human Rights (CHR) published a report denouncing Duterte’s “systematic attack” on human rights defenders; at least 134 human rights defenders had been killed under the Duterte administration. The report asserted that the impunity for such killings was connected to frequent presidential pronouncements dismissing human rights and stigmatizing human rights defenders as drug suspects and communists.

In April 2021, lawmakers from the opposition proposed a bill to criminalize red-tagging. The Department of Justice (DOJ) supported the initiative, even as the proposed 2022 government budget increased funds for agencies that frequently use red-tagging as a tactic.

In a June 2020 report, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that police and military intimidation tactics targeting activists continued during the coronavirus lockdowns.

According to Sweden-based Qurium Media, the human rights group Karapatan’s website experienced a series of DDoS cyberattacks between July and August 2021. The attacks were proxied using bots that originated from outside the Philippines. Karapatan’s Secretary General Cristina Palabay claimed they were intended to prevent the public from accessing reports on the worsening state of human rights in the country.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

Trade unions are independent, though less than 10 percent of the labor force is unionized. Collective bargaining is common among unionized workers, however, and strikes may be called as long as unions provide notice and obtain majority approval from their members.

Trade union members and labor and professional groups continue to be targets of red-tagging, stigmatization, and violence, and membership has declined in recent years. Leaders of such groups have been targeted amid a broader increase in extrajudicial killings that has taken place in the Philippines over the past decade. In March 2021, a labor leader was shot dead in Calamba, Laguna, three weeks after nine people were killed by police in various raids targeting political activists.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 1.001 4.004

Judicial independence has deteriorated during the Duterte administration. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno, a harsh critic of the president, was ousted in 2018 for allegedly failing to disclose all her assets. The decision was sharply criticized by the opposition as a brazen, politically motivated attack on the independence of the judiciary. In December 2020, an impeachment complaint was filed Edwin Cordevilla, secretary general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government, against another Supreme Court justice, Marvic Leonen, who is generally perceived as a human rights advocate. In September 2021, the impeachment case against Leonen was dismissed by the House of Representatives.

Judicial independence is also hampered by inefficiency, low pay, intimidation, corruption, and high vacancy rates. Since 2016, nine retired or former judges and justices and 14 former and current city prosecutors have been killed.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

The justice system fails to guarantee due process rights. Arbitrary detention, disappearances, kidnappings, and abuse of suspects are common. The OHCHR catalogued numerous due process violations linked to Duterte’s war on drugs, including the use of watch lists compiled by local officials that identify targets for home “visitations” that do not require warrants and often lead to extrajudicial execution.

The police and military have been implicated in corruption, extortion, and involvement in the illegal drug trade.

The Anti-Terrorism Act that took effect in July 2020 provides the state significant powers, including the warrantless arrest and detention of people designated as terrorists by an Anti-Terrorism Council appointed by the president. Rights advocates sharply criticized the law’s broad definition of terrorism as endangering dissent and free speech and stated that limits incorporated into the law were too vague to offer effective protection. At least 37 petitions challenging the law’s constitutionality have been filed in the Supreme Court. In December 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

The Philippines has been afflicted by long-running insurgencies, and more recently, violent extremism in Mindanao. Since his election in 2016, Duterte has waged a violent war on drugs that has led to widespread extrajudicial killings. A 2020 OHCHR report on human rights in the Philippines stated that the government’s focus on countering terrorism and the drug war has resulted in numerous systematic human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture of detainees, persistent impunity, and the vilification of dissent. A lack of effective witness protection has been a key obstacle to investigations against members of the security forces.

Authorities stated in July 2019 that 5,526 people had been killed in Duterte’s antidrug campaign. However, human rights groups put the number of related deaths between 2017 and 2019 at as many as 27,000, according to the most recently available statistics. The victims include civilians and children who were deliberately targeted. Convictions for extrajudicial killings and other such crimes are rare, and Duterte has appeared to encourage such violence.

In September 2021, a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into the Duterte government’s war on drugs to determine whether the campaign of state-sponsored violence constitutes crimes against humanity. In November, the ICC suspended its investigation after the Philippine government requested a deferral.

Conflict in Mindanao has caused severe hardship, more than 120,000 deaths, and the displacement of tens of thousands of people since it erupted in 1972. Both government and rebel forces have committed summary killings and other human rights abuses.

In September 2021, elections to the legislature for the self-governing Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)—created through a 2014 government peace treaty with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—were postponed until 2025 by the Senate. In 2019, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) was constituted as the governing body until elections, which were scheduled for 2022. However, militant groups that broke away from the MILF continue to carry out attacks.

In 2018, President Duterte ended peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), dashing hopes that the 50-year violent insurgency could reach a peaceful end during his administration. Deadly clashes between the NPA and the Philippine military continue to occur throughout the country. Pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the Anti-Terrorism Council designated the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups that December, allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council to search for and freeze their assets.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

Provisions mandating equal treatment are upheld inconsistently, and some groups lack legal protection. LGBT+ people face bias in employment, education, and other services, as well as societal discrimination. An antidiscrimination bill that passed the lower house in 2017 has not advanced further, though several cities, including Manila in October 2020, have passed ordinances recognizing LGBT+ rights and prohibiting acts of discrimination. In the absence of national legislation, birth identification documents cannot be altered.

In September 2020, Duterte pardoned a US soldier convicted of killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014, an act the CHR described as “an affront” to LGBT+ Filipinos. During Manila’s pride march in June 2020, 20 LGBT+ people were arrested for violations of public health and public assembly laws. Several LGBT+ people were subjected to humiliating treatment after being arrested in April of that year for violating the COVID-19 curfew.

According to the World Economic Forum, the Philippines features one of the smallest measured gender gaps in the world; women’s educational attainment outpaces men’s, and women are well represented in professional roles. Women still face some credit constraints and employment discrimination, and the political realm remains dominated by men, with women occupying only 23 percent of national and local elective positions.

Indigenous rights are generally upheld, but land disputes and local development projects regularly cause friction and sometimes lead to violence. Indigenous people often live in conflict areas and are targeted by combatants for their perceived loyalties.

The law mandates that at least 1 percent of public jobs be reserved for people with disabilities, but this is poorly upheld.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

Citizens enjoy freedom of travel and choice of residence, except for in areas affected by violent conflict. Although martial law in Mindanao ended at the start of 2020, the military continued its counterterrorism measures, which included checkpoints and a curfew.

Lockdowns in both 2020 and 2021 to combat the spread of COVID-19 led to the establishment of several hundred checkpoints manned by security forces to limit intercity travel, with additional localized entry and exit restrictions in villages.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

Private business activity is often dependent on the support of local power brokers in the complex patronage system that extends throughout the country. Outside of conflict zones, individuals are generally able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors, notwithstanding the domination and corruption of economic dynasties.

The 2020 coronavirus-related emergency law empowered the president to direct the operations of privately-owned businesses, including medical facilities and businesses in the transportation and hospitality sectors required for quarantine and temporary housing.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

Most individuals enjoy personal social freedoms. However, divorce is illegal in the Philippines, though annulments are allowed under specified circumstances, and Muslims may divorce via Sharia (Islamic law) courts. In 2019, the Supreme Court denied a petition to recognize same-sex marriages, with a petition to reconsider denied in January 2020. Domestic violence is a significant problem, and while spousal rape is a crime, very few cases are prosecuted. Police data showed an increase in reported domestic violence against women and children during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Abortion is illegal in nearly all circumstances, though unregulated abortions are frequent. In December 2021, the Senate passed the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2020, which extends the benefits and subsidies given to married parents to single parents.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

The Philippines is a source country for human trafficking, with some Filipinos taken abroad and forced to work in the fishing, shipping, construction, or other industries, or forced to engage in sex work. The country’s various insurgent groups have been accused of using child soldiers.

The legal minimum wage in the agricultural sector in some regions falls far short of what is necessary for a family to avoid poverty. Violation of minimum-wage standards is fairly common. There is a wide gap between the salaries of top executives and their employees.

Children have been reported working as domestic laborers. There is a shortage of labor inspectors; authorities have acknowledged the problem but say they have limited funds to address it. The Philippines is a global center of online child sexual abuse, and reports indicated an increase of such abuse during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    55 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    65 100 partly free