The Philippines

The Philippines is a multiparty democracy with a well developed civil society sector. Yet, the political and the judicial situation in the country is fairly turbulent, with a weak law enforcement system.1

Although in the Philippines children make up almost half of the population, their rights are often neglected. Many work and live on the streets, and face poverty. Save the Children is fighting for legal reforms that prohibit all violence against children including corporal punishment, and supports the passing of a new bill addressing child pornography, the age of sexual consent, and the age of criminal responsibility.2

Recent history

The Philippines revolted against Spanish rule 1896-1897, and 1898 marked the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. When control of the Philippines was transferred to the United States at the end of the conflict between Spain and the United States, the Philippines declared war against the United States. Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines (1941-45), and in 1944 the Americans returned to the Japanese-occupied Philippines. Ties between the two nations have remained strong even after the Philippines was granted independence in 1946.3

Two presidents of the Philippines have stepped down after mass demonstrations; Ferdinand Marcos was forced from office in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.4 President Marcos relinquished power after mass demonstrations following allegations of electoral manipulation, and President Estrada was forced out after street protests and accusations of economic corruption.

Social and economic situation

The Philippines has a history of armed violence. In the Mindanao region, religion has played a role in the fight for a separate Islamic state that has been going on for decades. The conflict has claimed more than 120 000 lives.5 During the past few years the Philippines has experienced strong economic growth but the economy has slowed down amid the global financial crisis. The income gap is big – the richest tenth of the population earns 23 times more than the poorest tenth.6 Based on a survey by UN-Habitat, there were 20 million slum dwellers in the Philippines in 2001, representing about 44 per cent of the country’s urban population.7

Human rights issues

The turbulent political and judicial situation in the Philippines is being reflected in the many extrajudicial killings of, amongst others, critical journalists and political activists. However, the number of killings has decreased since 2008 due to severe domestic and international pressure and criticism. In April 2008 the UN Human Rights Council examined the human rights record of the Philippines. There were concerns about the remaining high frequency of political violence. Reports of execution-style killings continue in several cities, particularly in Mindanao.8 The majority of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remain unsolved. According to Amnesty International a culture of impunity continues to encourage vigilante killings.9