World Report 2021: Rights Trends in Philippines (2022)

The human rights situation in the Philippines deteriorated in 2020. President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs,” ongoing since he took office in June 2016, continued to target mostly impoverished Filipinos in urban areas. The police and unidentified gunmen linked to the police have committed thousands of extrajudicial executions. The killings increased dramatically during the Covid-19 lockdown, rising by over 50 percent during April to July 2020 compared to the previous four months. There has been almost total impunity for these killings.

In June 2020, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a highly critical report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. In October, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution continuing scrutiny of the situation in the country for another two years, but without creating an international investigation.

Threats and attacks, including killings, against left-wing political activists, environmental activists, community leaders, Indigenous peoples’ leaders, journalists, lawyers, and others rose in the past year. The government harassed journalists and media companies, including through politically motivated prosecutions and other legal action; a court convicted journalist Maria Ressa of cyber libel in June, while the government shut down the country’ largest television network the following month.

In March, the government placed the country under lockdown, restricting people’s movement to limit the spread of Covid-19, using the military, as well as the police and local officials, to enforce the lockdown. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and often detained in crowded jails and holding centers where they were at increased risk of contracting the virus. Police and local officials targeted vulnerable populations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and children, and in some cases using public humiliation and cruel treatment.

World Report 2021: Rights Trends in Philippines (1)

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Unending “Drug War”

According to official government figures, members of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency killed 5,903 individuals during anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2020. This number did not include the deaths of those killed by unidentified gunmen whom Human Rights Watch and other rights monitors believe operate in cooperation with local police and officials. Other sources, such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, put the death toll at 8,663, although domestic human rights groups, including the government’s Commission on Human Rights, believe the real figure could be triple the number reported in the OHCHR report.

Based on statistics released by the government through its #RealNumbersPH, “drug war” killings increased by over 50 percent during the lockdown months from April to July. Among those severely affected by the “drug war” violence are children left behind by the victims. These children are often driven deeper into poverty, suffer deep psychological distress, often drop out of school for financial and other reasons, and suffer bullying in their schools or communities.

The vast majority of “drug war” killings have not been seriously investigated by the authorities. Only a handful of cases are in varying stages of investigation by prosecutors. Only one case—the video recorded murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in August 2017—has resulted in the 2018 conviction of several police officers.

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The creation of a committee to investigate cases of police involvement in killings, originally pledged by the secretary of justice to the UN Human Rights Council, is of doubtful utility given the prominent role of key agencies responsible for killings in the committee’s leadership.

President Duterte continues to encourage the killings, ordering customs officials in September to kill alleged drug smugglers. He also regularly denounced and dismissed groups that criticize the “war on drugs,” accusing them of “weaponizing human rights.”

Political Killings, Threats, Harassment

On June 4, OHCHR published a report that found “numerous systematic human rights violations” in the Philippines, among them the killing of 208 human rights defenders and activists since 2015.

Leftist activists and human rights defenders were key targets of physical and online attacks. On August 17, unidentified gunmen shot dead Zara Alvarez, a legal worker for the human rights group Karapatan, in Bacolod City in the central Philippines. Alvarez’s killing came a week after peasant leader Randall Echanis was found dead, apparently tortured, in his home in Quezon City. Alvarez was the 13th Karapatan member killed during the Duterte administration.

The attacks against activists occurred in the context of the government’s campaign against the communist New People’s Army insurgency. Government and military officials have accused Karapatan and the other groups in its network of being supporters of the insurgents in a “red-tagging” campaign that puts them at heightened risk of attack. The military, national security agencies, and the police have actively used social media to convey threats that have resulted in tens of red-tagged people being killed in the past year.

In September, Facebook took down for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” dozens of what it called “fake accounts” being used by state forces to spread government and military propaganda. The accounts included posts that demonized activists, accusing them of being communists or communist sympathizers, and, in several cases, “terrorists.”

In July, Duterte signed a new Anti-Terrorism Law. The law contains overbroad and vague provisions that the government can use to unjustly target critics. Among its provisions is the creation of a government-appointed Anti-Terrorism Council that can designate a person or a group as a terrorist, making them immediately liable to be arrested without warrant or charges and be detained for up to 24 days.

Freedom of Media

In June, a court in Manila convicted CEO Maria Ressa of the news website Rappler of cyber libel, along with Reynaldo Santos Jr., a former Rappler researcher. The case involved the retroactive application of the new law to an article that had been published years earlier.

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The case is one of several that Ressa and Rappler face as part of the government’s campaign of retaliation campaign of retaliation against media organizations for their reporting on “drug war” killings and the Duterte presidency. Since 2016, the president and his supporters on social media have subject Ressa and Rappler to threats and harassment, including misogynistic attacks online.

In July, the Philippine Congress, in which Duterte controls a large majority, voted not to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest television network. The vote led to the shutdown of ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN earned the ire of Duterte and his officials who accused the network, which often criticized the government’s “war on drugs,” of bias.

The killing of journalists also continued with the murder of radio broadcaster and online commentator Jobert Bercasio on September 14. Bercasio was the 17th journalist killed during Duterte’s term in office and the 189th since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986. In December 2019, a Manila court convicted two of the masterminds and several dozen accomplices for the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre in which a local ruling family murdered 58 people, including 32 media workers covering a political campaign. However, nearly 80 suspects remain at large, with little prospect of them being apprehended.

Death Penalty

The Philippine government began in 2020 to seriously consider legislation to reinstate the death penalty. The move in Congress came a week after President Duterte used his State of the Nation Address in July to call for capital punishment by lethal injection for drug offenders.

Reinstating the death penalty would violate the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Philippines ratified in 2007.


At time of writing, the Philippines had one of the highest recorded numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 400,000 cases as of mid-November. The Duterte administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been led by former military officers, using police supported by the military, which has resulted in serious human rights abuses.

Since March 16, the government has imposed varying types of quarantines and lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus. Abuses reported include local officials putting curfew violators in dog cages or exposing them to hours sitting in the summer sun as a form of punishment. Two children who were arrested after curfew were put inside a coffin by local officials. In April, three LGBT people were accosted by authorities for violating curfew. Officials humiliated them by forcing them to dance and kiss each other in public. Many people arrested for violating Covid-19 regulations were thrown into overcrowded detention facilities where social distancing is impossible, increasing their risk of contracting the virus.

The C-19 law that President Duterte signed on March 24 criminalizes the spreading of “false information” with up to two months in prison and a 1 million peso (US$19,600) fine. This law has been used to censor free speech in cases filed against social media users, among them journalists, who criticized or even poked fun at the government’s response.

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Reports of domestic violence have risen during lockdown restrictions. Groups such as UNICEF and Save the Children have raised alarm about the impact the pandemic and lockdown have on the welfare of children, particularly concerning child sexual and physical abuse.

Key International Actors

In October, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution that called for the Philippines to “ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and in this regard to conduct independent, full, and transparent investigations and to prosecute all those who have perpetrated serious crimes, including violations and abuses of human rights.”

However, instead of establishing an independent international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, the resolution granted the government’s request for technical assistance for a joint UN-Philippines technical assistance program on human rights to supposedly address the killings. Human Rights Watch and dozens of other domestic and international groups view the request, as well as the government’s compromised committee to review the deaths in the “drug war,” as an attempt to evade UN scrutiny.

In September, the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to adopt a resolution denouncing the “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation” in the Philippines and called on the Philippines to abide by its human rights commitment under the European Union’s General Systems of Preference Plus program that allows the country to export 6,200 products to EU states without tariff. The resolution also called for dropping the cases against journalist Maria Ressa and Senator Leila de Lima, a longtime critic of Duterte who has been in pretrial detention for more than three years on bogus drug charges.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) continued its preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity related to the “drug war” killings. The Philippines withdrew from the court effective March 17, 2019, but the Office of the Prosecutor has indicated the court could still pursue crimes committed before that date, and it will continue to pursue its examination. UN human rights experts, among them Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Agnès Callamard, have urged the ICC to prioritize completion of its examination.

In September, members of the US Congress introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act, which seeks to suspend US defense and security assistance to the Philippines for human rights abuses until the government undertakes significant reform. In order to lift the suspension, the US secretary of state would have to certify that the government had adequately investigated and successfully prosecuted members of the military and police forces who violated human rights; withdrawn the military from domestic policing activity; and established effective protection of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, and government critics.

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What are the human rights issues in the Philippines 2021? ›

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by and on behalf of the government and Page 2 nonstate actors; reports of forced disappearance by and on behalf of the government and nonstate actors; torture by and on behalf of the ...

What is the current situation of human rights in the Philippines? ›

The Philippines' human rights situation is dire, with the number of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, and attacks against activists and critics unparalleled since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

What are some human rights issues 2021? ›

  • Lockdown in Chains.
  • Poverty, Pandemic, Police Violence: Ongoing Crises Demand the US Address Pervasive Racism.
  • Rethinking Asylum on a Warming Planet.
  • As Online Gender-Based Violence Booms, Governments Drag Their Feet.
  • Addressing the Climate Crisis in Times of Pandemic.

What is the most violated human rights in the Philippines? ›

The most significant human rights issues included: killings by security forces, vigilantes and others allegedly connected to the government, and by insurgents; torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees by security forces; often harsh and life threatening prison conditions; warrantless arrests by security forces and ...

What are some current human rights issues 2022? ›

  • Racial Justice.
  • Poverty and Inequality.
  • Criminal Legal System.
  • Children in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.
  • Drug Policy.
  • Rights of Non-Citizens.
  • Health and Human Rights.
  • Voting Rights.

What is the present status of human rights? ›

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

What are the human rights issues facing the world today? ›

Gender equality

Access to education, political representation, reproductive rights, economic opportunities, and more contribute to gender inequality. Making significant changes and monitoring progress will remain a top human rights in the future. Learn more about Gender equality in a free course.

What are 3 major issues still facing the world in terms of human rights? ›

  • Health and disability.
  • Food security.
  • Economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Education.
  • Terrorism.
  • Rule of law.
  • Discrimination.
  • Women.

What are the current issues in our society today 2021? ›

Climate Change and Global Warming. Consumption and Consumerism. Sustainable Development. Natural Disasters.

Where are human rights being violated in the World 2021? ›

In 2021, new and unresolved conflicts erupted or persisted in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Myanmar and Yemen, with warring parties violating international human rights and humanitarian law.

What are the top 10 issues in the Philippines? ›

  • “War Against Drugs”
  • Killing of Political Activists, Community Leaders, Human Rights Defenders.
  • Attacks on Civil Society.
  • Freedom of Media.
  • Children's Rights.
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
  • Death Penalty.

What is the most important rights in the Philippines? ›

We have the right to life, liberty, security and property. We have the right to a transparent, credible, competent and impartial justice system, free from influence and corruption, where wrongs are redressed and justice is dispensed fairly, speedily and equitably.

What is the most often violated rights of the child in the Philippines? ›

This includes physical and psychological violence, sexual violence, bullying, exploitation, and violence in the internet. Violence seriously harms children physically and psychologically, hampers their development, and violates their right to protection.

What are the 5 issues in the Philippines? ›

Poverty, lack of education, drug or substance abuse, vice, crime and unemployment are among the many problems that continue to batter them.

Is there human rights violations in the Philippines? ›

GENEVA (13 Sept 2022) – Amid continuing reports of human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines, including in the context of anti-drug operations, victims still face challenges in seeking justice, a UN report published today finds.

What are the five examples of human rights in the Philippines? ›

These rights include the right to life and liberty, personal security, freedom from torture, freedom from discrimination and freedom from arbitrary arrest, among others.

Where are human rights being violated in the world 2022? ›

The Middle East and North Africa is the world's worst region for workers' rights, the Global Rights Index 2022 states. Workers in this region face systematic violations of their rights, or no guarantee of their rights at all.

What is the most important human rights issue? ›

These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental - the right to life - to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.

Why is human rights relevant today? ›

#1: Human rights ensure people have basic needs met

Everyone needs access to medicine, food and water, clothes, and shelter. By including these in a person's basic human rights, everyone has a baseline level of dignity.

Why are human rights still relevant today? ›

We simply cannot have peace and security without some of the basic fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in the UDHR, such as the right to life, security, and liberty of the person, but equally we cannot have development without the right to health or the right to education, for instance.

What are the top 5 most important human rights? ›

The 30 universal human rights also cover up freedom of opinion, expression, thought and religion.
  • 30 Basic Human Rights List. ...
  • All human beings are free and equal. ...
  • No discrimination. ...
  • Right to life. ...
  • No slavery. ...
  • No torture and inhuman treatment. ...
  • Same right to use law. ...
  • Equal before the law.

What are the 3 most important human rights? ›

Human rights are based on values that keep society fair, just and equal. They include the right to life, the right to health and the right to freedom from torture.

What are major issues faced and handled by National human rights Commission? ›

Corruption, denial of gender equality and exploitation of women, terrorism are some of the other issues which are seriously impacting human life.

What are the social issues that the Philippines is facing today? ›

  • Unending “Drug War”
  • Political Killings, Threats, Harassment.
  • Freedom of Media.
  • Death Penalty.
  • Covid-19.

What is the most problem in the Philippines? ›

  • 1 Water pollution.
  • 2 Deforestation.
  • 3 Air pollution.
  • 4 Illegal fishing. 4.1 General. 4.2 Dynamite fishing.
  • 5 Climate change.
  • 6 Environmentalism. 6.1 Anti-nuclear movement. 6.2 Threats to environmentalists.
  • 7 Government policy. 7.1 Environmental protection. 7.2 Sustainable development. 7.3 Writ of Kalikasan.
  • 8 See also.

What are the major contemporary global issues facing the world in the 21 century? ›

  • Low carbon energy.
  • Climate change.
  • Sustainability.
  • Geoengineering.
  • Deforestation.
  • Globalisation and geopolitics.
  • Air pollution.
  • Global health.

What are the 5 basic human rights violations? ›

Civil, political, economic, cultural, and social rights can all be violated through various means.

What country violates human rights the most? ›

In 2017, South Sudan ranked last for Human Rights Protection, followed by Syria, Sudan, and Myanmar.
Countries with lowest Human Rights Protection Scores as of 2017.
CharacteristicHuman rights score
South Sudan-2.59
9 more rows
13 Aug 2021

What countries are currently violating human rights? ›

This is modern slavery. In 2018, the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia and Iran.

What is the biggest problem facing the world today 2022? ›

July 2022). 11 countries cite inflation as their top worry. Worry about inflation is followed by poverty & social inequality (31%), unemployment (27%), crime & violence (26%), and financial or political corruption (25%), which make up the top five global worries.

What is the greatest social issue of the Philippines? ›

The Philippines, a country of more than 70 million people and with a relatively high population growth rate, faces significant problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment and particularly of environmental degradation.

What are the 3 main issues that Manila is facing today? ›

Among the many challenges faced by MetroManila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines, three appear as the most pressing issues for the everydaylife of its citizens: housing, flooding and traffic.

What are the five current issues? ›

Top 20 Current Global Issues We Must Address
  • #1. Poverty. In fall 2022, the World Bank will update the International Poverty Line from $1.90 to $2.15. ...
  • #2. Climate change. ...
  • #3. Food insecurity. ...
  • #4. Refugee rights. ...
  • #5. COVID-19. ...
  • #6. Future pandemic preparation and response. ...
  • #7. Healthcare. ...
  • #8. Mental health.

What are the rights of a State Philippines? ›

The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.

Which right is the most important right? ›

Right to Constitutional Remedies is the most important fundamental right because it ensures that all citizens enjoy their fundamental rights. Under this right, citizens can approach the high court or the supreme court to reclaim their fundamental rights.

What article best protects human rights in the Philippines? ›

— Section 11 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines declares that the State values the dignity of every human, person and guarantees full respect for human rights.

What are the rights of the child in conflict with the law Philippines? ›

- The child in conflict with the law shall enjoy the presumption of minority. He/She shall enjoy all the rights of a child in conflict with the law until he/she is proven to be eighteen (18) years old or older.

What are the elements of abuse of rights in the Philippines? ›

The elements of abuse of rights are the following: (a) the existence of a legal right or duty; (b) which is exercised in bad faith; and (c) with the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.

What laws protect children's rights in the Philippines? ›

Laws on Children
  • The Child and Youth Welfare Code.
  • Special Protection of Children Againts Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
  • IRR of RA 7610.
  • An Amendment to National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.
  • Children's Television Act of 1997.
  • Executive Order 184 Series of 1999.
  • Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

What are main issues of human rights nowadays? ›

Gender equality

Access to education, political representation, reproductive rights, economic opportunities, and more contribute to gender inequality. Making significant changes and monitoring progress will remain a top human rights in the future. Learn more about Gender equality in a free course.

What are some examples of human rights issues that still exist today? ›

  • Racial Justice.
  • Poverty and Inequality.
  • Criminal Legal System.
  • Children in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems.
  • Drug Policy.
  • Rights of Non-Citizens.
  • Health and Human Rights.
  • Voting Rights.

What are the emerging trends in human rights? ›

Emerging trend of human right tends that accused get his basic human right at every stage of fair trial. Fair trial being heart of the criminal jurisprudence and Indian legal system adopt and coordinate with International Conventions which work for development of human rights.

What are the issues and challenges of human rights? ›

Human Rights Challenges
  • Poverty and global inequities.
  • Discrimination.
  • Armed conflict and violence.
  • Impunity.
  • Democracy deficits.
  • Weak institutions.

Where are human rights being violated 2022? ›

The Middle East and North Africa is the world's worst region for workers' rights, the Global Rights Index 2022 states. Workers in this region face systematic violations of their rights, or no guarantee of their rights at all.

What global issues are mostly affecting the Philippines? ›

Today,​​ environmental problems in the Philippines include pollution, illegal mining and logging, deforestation, threats to environmental activists, dynamite fishing, landslides, coastal erosion, biodiversity loss, extinction, global warming and climate change.

What is the main issue in the Philippines? ›

Poverty and Inequality in the Phils. remains a challenge.In the past four decades,the proportion of households living below the official poverty line has declined slowly and unevenly and poverty reduction has been much slow. There is weak local government capacity for implementing poverty reduction programs.

What are the top 3 most important rights? ›

They include the right to life, the right to health and the right to freedom from torture.

What are the major contemporary global issues facing the world in the 21st century? ›

the latest geographical research.
  • Low carbon energy.
  • Climate change.
  • Sustainability.
  • Geoengineering.
  • Deforestation.
  • Globalisation and geopolitics.
  • Air pollution.
  • Global health.


1. World Report 2019: Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights
(Human Rights Watch)
(Rayven Aiyhrish Clarin)
3. How Qatar Bought the World Cup
(Johnny Harris)
4. Philippines Election: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
5. Why Global Supply Chains May Never Be the Same | A WSJ Documentary
(Wall Street Journal)
6. COVID-19 In Philippines: The Starving Urban Poor. What Went Wrong? | Insight | Poverty In Asia
(CNA Insider)

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