US report: No significant changes of human rights situation in Philippines

The US Department of State’s report on the human rights situation in the Philippines in 2023, published on April 22, 2024, found that human rights violations continued to occur under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Furthermore, the annual report recorded “no significant changes in the human rights situation,” even though “the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and some other abuses by government agents decreased.”

The 58-page report emphasized concerns about the continued impunity of police, government officials and security forces, particularly in the context of the government’s anti-drug campaign. The report also referred to the documentation of the Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines, according to which 209 drug-related killings took place between January and August 2023.

In addition to extrajudicial killings, the report named enforced disappearances, torture, restricted freedom of expression and media freedom and serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic human rights organizations as existing human rights violations. The report highlighted that the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) documented 10 cases of abduction and enforced disappearance of 15 people between January and July 2023. Despite a law prohibiting torture, some security forces have also been accused of mistreating and torturing suspects and detainees, according to the CHR.

The practice of so-called “red-tagging” (i.e., branding individuals or organizations as “terrorist”) has continued under President Marcos Jr. without the government “stopping or condemning” it, according to the US report. The report also emphasized the continuing threat to journalists, drawing on documentation from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).  From January to April 2023, the NUJP counted 60 violations (i.e., harassment or “red-tagging”) against press freedom.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) declared the US report as “misleading” and that it did not reflect the reality on the ground. The DFA called for a more thorough review of the sources and updating of the references. The Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that the extrajudicial killings mentioned in the report were not related to the exercise of freedom of expression under the current administration but had personal motives.



Photo © Raffy Lerma

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