Freedom in the World
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The Philippines received a downward trend arrow due to a general decline in the rule of law in the greater Mindanao region, and specifically the massacre of 57 civilians on their way to register a candidate for upcoming elections.
Political maneuvering escalated in 2009 as potential candidates prepared for the 2010 presidential election. Meanwhile, the administration remained unsuccessful in its long-standing efforts to amend the constitution and resolve the country’s Muslim and leftist insurgencies. In November, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared martial law in the southern province of Maguindanao after 57 people were massacred in an apparent bid by the area’s dominant clan to prevent the electoral registration of a rival candidate.
Arroyo responded in early December by declaring martial law for the first time in nearly 30 years. The declaration, which applied to Maguindanao province only, entailed the suspension of habeas corpus and other rights, invoking significant criticism; the administration justified the move by arguing that the Ampatuans were fomenting rebellion. A state of emergency was declared in three Mindanao provinces immediately following the massacre, which remained even after martial law was lifted in mid-December. At least 62 people were arrested, including Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and the authorities dug up arms caches as part of a broad effort to weaken local clans. Nevertheless, the Arroyo administration was widely criticized for its longtime policy of tolerating local warlords and supporting clan patronage as part of its counterinsurgency strategy, and the massacre brought new international attention the country’s deeply entrenched culture of impunity. Arroyo lifted martial law on December 12 just before a joint session of Congress was due to vote on the declaration, as the Senate had already registered opposition.
The Republic of the Philippines is not an electoral democracy. Elections in 2004 and 2007 were marred by fraud, intimidation, and political violence, and the country was shaken by alleged coup plots or attempts in 2005, 2006, and 2007.