The Philippines Has One of the Most Repressed Civic Spaces in Asia-Pacific, According to Report
The harassment of dissenters will undermine the democratic values of any country. Organizations in the Philippines, who work tirelessly to assert their rights in the social and political arena, are a pillar of such. Nevertheless, they face an uphill battle. Unfortunately, the civic space in the Philippines has been ranked as one of the more "repressed" ones in all of the Asia-Pacific.
According to the 2022 CIVICUS monitor report, since governments have lifted controls in relation to the pandemic, "stifle dissent and crack down on civil society and social movements remained prevalent and escalated in some countries." The report, which documents "restrictions and attacks on civic freedoms across the Asia Pacific region," gave the Philippines a score of 34. We join countries like Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, and Thailand on the list, where our spaces are considered "repressed."
The reported continued: "Among the most common violations were the passing and use of restrictive laws to criminalize activists and critics. In several countries, these laws were used to prosecute human rights defenders and keep them behind bars for long periods... The authorities also harassed activists and protesters, including by hauling them in for questioning, detaining them, intimidating their families and imposing travel bans, in addition to digital attacks."
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In particular, CIVICUS notes that the Philippines' most prominent cases of such repression include how journalists during the May elections had been banned from events and how a peaceful protest at the Commission on Human Rights during the time of the proclamation led to chaos when police enforcement became involved.
Asia Democracy Network and the Asian Human Rights Commission, along with more than 20 organizations, had collected the data and information on civil society groups, activists, and human rights defenders. A total of 493 updated were made before the results came out.
What's even more troubling is that the report sees a concerning development worldwide: 117 out of the 197 countries currently face "severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms." Justice Chief Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla, on the other hand, earlier reassured the United Nations Human Rights Council back in November 2022 that the Philippines is a "vibrant democracy" where freedom of expression and the right to a peaceful assembly is protected.