The annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, 2023, caused great disappointment among human rights groups as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. failed to mention human rights violations. Instead, he described the state of the nation as “sound and improving“. Priority issues were economic growth, infrastructure, agriculture, health and climate change. Priority was also given to issues such as taxes, single-use plastic, digital services, taxation of motorised vehicles and military and civil servants’ pensions, among others.
Secretary General of the human rights organisation Karapatan, Kristina Palabay, stressed: “His Sona reaffirmed that his government will do nothing to act on and improve the civil and political rights situation in the country.“
Marcos failed to address the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the about 30,000 killings in the so-called “war on drugs” under ex-President Duterte, as well as the worsening repression against human rights defenders. As of June 30, 2023, Karapatan documented eight victims of enforced disappearances since Marcos took office in 2022.
The desolate state of press freedom continues under Marcos, echoing the threatening situation during the Duterte administration. In a statement of July 24, 2023, by alternative media organizations, freedom of expression was rated as severely restricted.
Photo © Raffy Lerma