Activist speaks to CIVICUS about conditions for citizen action in the Philippines


As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the bloodshed from President Duterte’s war on drugs shows little sign of relenting. Since his campaign against drugs began in July, an estimated 4,800 people have been targetted in extrajudicial killings for their alleged links to the drug trade. In bid to prove that the authorities have no connections to the unrest, on 24th October President Duterte's administration invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings, Dr. Agnes Callamard to conduct an official investigation in the Philippines. Dr. Callamard has asked that she be given freedom of movement throughout the whole country, freedom of inquiry, and security for the duration her visit as well as unfettered access to civil society organisations and other monitoring bodies. 

As the spate of extrajudicial killings continues, civic groups in the Philippines have have expressed concerns about a declining environment for activism. In a recent interview, activist Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag, from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights spoke to CIVICUS about the changing situation for civic activism in the Philippines:

Peaceful Assembly

Since the last update on the CIVICUS Monitor, on 18th November the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the burial of ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the heroes' cemetery. Mass demonstrations against the decision forced the Marcos family to conduct the burial of Marcos in secret. As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, civic groups have been at the forefront of contesting the plans, and have done so without interference from authorities in the Philippines. However, security forces only permitted assemblies within designated areas of Manila. 

On 19th October, an anti-United States rally held in front of the US Embassy in Manila turned violent after security forces used excessive force to quell the protest. Reports allege that security forces repeatedly used a van to ram into crowds, injuring at least three activists. Protesters had come together to demonstrate against the presence of US troops in the Philippines and in support of President Rodrigo Duterte's dismissal of US foreign policy. Many on the ground reported that there was no justification for the excessive and dangerous use of force by authorities, leading many civic groups to question the reckless tactics employed by security forces.