The Philippines retained its rank as the second least peaceful country in the Asia Pacific region, behind North Korea, according to the 2018 Global Peace Index report that assessed the peace and order situation in 163 countries. Among Southeast Asian nations, the Philippines was named the least peaceful. It ranked 137th this year, moving up one spot from last year’s 138.
The Philippines’ score declined by 0.012 points at 2.512, second only to North Korea, the region’s least peaceful state, with a score of 2.95, according to the peace index report of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017. From January to the end of September, media reports chronicled more than 900 fatalities in police operations suspected to be connected with the government’s antidrug campaign. Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings. As of August, police claimed to have resolved 1,889 cases, and 4,373 remained under investigation.
Other rights organizations have also criticized the Duterte administration for making the country a far more dangerous place by rolling back Filipinos’ human rights protections. Amnesty International has characterized the human rights agenda of the current administration to be in a downward spiral since he assumed office in 2016. The group also pointed out the frequent attempts of the President Duterte to smear human rights leading to a situation wherein anyone is given a free rein to commit human rights abuses with impunity.
Rights groups have also raised the concern that the Duterte government maybe emboldening vigilantes. In a statement by Amnesty International, the group said that while political violence was not new, President Duterte appears to have aggravated it through his pronouncements. The group further said that the Duterte Administration is empowering vigilante killings when President Duterte calls for ordinary citizens to kill drug dealers and his vow to protect officers who get sued while pursuing his drug campaign.
A number of macroeconomic factors affect the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Economics Professor Emmanuel De Dios notes that there have been a number of surprising trends that characterize the implementation of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy. These include: 1) Government missing its growth targets; 2) Government continues to underspend and fall below its total deficit and infrastructure spending targets; 3) current account and BOP surpluses have already been reversed; 4) inflation has broken through government targets.
An increase in inflation rates beyond the targets set by the government has contributed to the worsening poverty trends in the country. In a span of three months, the number of Filipinos who said their families are poor has increased by 1.3 million, according to a latest survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS).
The second quarter survey, conducted from June 27 to 30, showed that self-rated poverty in the country rose to 48 percent from 42 percent in March. This translates to an increase from an estimated 9.8 million to 11.1 million. The SWS said this is the highest self-rated poverty figure in the country since the 50 percent obtained in March 2017. Self-rated poverty increased in all areas except in balance Luzon, where it decreased from 40 percent in March to 35 percent in June. The number of Filipinos who said their families are poor jumped by 13 points in Metro Manila (from 30 percent to 43 percent) and Visayas (from 54 percent to 67 percent), and 18 points in Mindanao (from 42 percent to 60 percent).
Meanwhile, the number of Filipinos who said that their families are “food-poor” – or those who rated themselves as poor based on the food that they eat – increased to 34 percent or 7.8 million families. The figure is up five points from the record-low 29 percent or 6.7 million families recorded in March. The SWS said the increase might be attributed to the double-digit jump of self-rated food poverty in Mindanao: from 31 percent in March to 45 percent in June. Figures also increased in Metro Manila from 18 percent to 23 percent and rest of Luzon from 24 percent to 26 percent while it remained at 45 percent in Visayas.
Some key legislation with impact on the protection and promotion of human rights were passed. The Philippine System Identification Act (PhilSys Act) mandates the government to create a single official identification card for all citizens and foreign residents that would serve as a de facto national identification number. The PSA will be the implementing agency of the measure. The national ID shall contain a person’s Philippine Identification System number, full name, gender, blood type, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, address, and a front facing photo. Prior to the signing of the PhilSys Act, the Philippines had been one of the few countries in the world which had no national ID system. Previous administrations attempted to establish a national ID system but these efforts were met with strong opposition.
President Duterte likewise signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law The measure, which paves for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was signed into law two days after the President delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23. The signing of the BOL, previously called the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), is the culmination of decades-long peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the rebel groups in Mindanao.
The bill promises autonomy for the Muslim-majority region, and the reforms are sweeping, including the country’s first parliamentary form with a chief minister overseeing 80 representatives. The new form will also address some major issues with the ARMM – including the need to address the House to secure funds. The BBL will guarantee funding which can be spent at the discretion of the parliament, and dditional funding has been guaranteed for the first five years to rehabilitate war-torn areas.
Rampant violations of civil and political rights continue to be an enduring feature of the human rights situation in the country. Inadequate effort to exact accountability on the part of human rights violators has contributed to the worsening climate of impunity. Pronouncements from high level duty bearers have an effect of abetting human rights violations against those who had been targeted in the government’s misguided war on drugs.
Personal integrity rights continue to be observed largely due to the failure to indict its perpetrators. Lamentably, State Institutions have not exerted enough effort to prevent violations against the personal integrity of rights holders as evidenced by the numerous instances of extra-judicial killings, involuntary disappearances, arbitrary arrest, and torture.
Democratic discourse has also taken a hit as those who have taken an alternative view of the prevailing political and economic conditions in the country are subjected to systematic vilification. Critics have been subjected to harassment through both traditional and technological aided misinformation tactics.
It is noteworthy to point out that despite of government’s effort to make progressive realization on the economic, social and cultural rights of Filipinos, such efforts have been generally undermined by ill-timed domestic policy issuances. The passage of the TRAIN Law coupled with changes in the global economic conditions has contributed to inflationary pressures that have led to serious challenges to the ability of a typical Filipino household to cope with rising prices and maintain a decent standard of living.