United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Philippines, -, 30 January 1994, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/usdos/1994/en/24950 [accessed 25 February 2024]
THE PHILIPPINES The Philippines has a republican form of government with a democratically elected president, a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary. The current President, former Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, won a closely contested but generally fair election in May 1992. A large percentage of the approximately 109,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which shares counterinsurgency responsibilities with the Philippine National Police (PNP), a civilian force numbering 96,000, were deployed in field operations against a declining but still active Communist insurgency and Muslim separatist insurgents. Both the AFP and PNP are under the control of the Government which is publicly committed to respecting human rights. However, elements of the security forces, including local civilian militias, continued to commit significant human rights abuses in the course of counterinsurgency operations. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), were also responsible for human rights violations, as were Muslim insurgent groups. Growth of the market-oriented economy has lagged behind that of its more dynamic Asian neighbors in recent years, in part because of the political instability which plagued Ramos' predecessor. While there have been some signs of recovery, formidable obstacles remain, and gross domestic product (GDP) growth may fall short of the current 2.3 percent rate of population increase. Structural problems include an entrenched oligarchical elite which dominates the economy and politics and is resistant to reforms which threaten its interests. The Philippines also continues to be characterized by glaring income disparities and widespread poverty. Information from both the Government and nongovernmental human rights organizations (NGO's) indicate a decrease in reports of human rights violations for 1993, continuing the downward trend of recent years. Principal abuses by government forces against individuals included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and harassment of suspected insurgents and their supporters. The decline in abuses on the part of both the Government and insurgent forces reflected a reduction in the number of military encounters. However, a wide range of human rights abuses continued to occur within the context of illegal activities of police and military personnel, including protection rackets, political gangsterism, kidnap-for-ransom syndicates, and assistance to illegal loggers. Although there were a few cases of successful prosecutions, there still was very little observable progress in trying, convicting, and appropriately punishing the perpetrators of human rights abuses, most of whom continue to go unpunished.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a constitutionally mandated agency of the Government, reported 93 incidents of political or extrajudicial killing during the first half of 1993. This compares with 353 such killings for all of 1992 reported by the CHR. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a prominent NGO (see Section 4), reported 30 people killed extrajudicially in the first half of 1993 as compared to 139 for all of 1992. The numbers given by CHR are higher because the CHR includes violations by both the Government and insurgent groups, including the CPP/NPA. The TFDP, however, lists only offenses attributed to government authorities. Both CHR and TFDP attribute the majority of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, to military forces and the police. In an incident in Manila in June described as typical, a police officer shot to death an individual who he claimed was a car thief. However, witnesses and companions of the victim claimed that the police officer, who had been drinking with several other officers, shot the victim after the motorized tricycle he was driving almost collided with the car the police officer was in. In another case, William Rom, a researcher for Sildap-Sidlakan, an NGO serving tribal communities in Surigao Del Norte, was hacked to death in July by bolo-wielding CAFGU members, who accused him of being an NPA member. According to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), an NGO, three trade union leaders and labor activists were killed in connection with their activities during the first year of the Ramos presidency. There were also 15 attempted murders. The victims of the murders reported by the CTUHR were generally union organizers, while the targets of the attempted murders were often strikers. The assailants were private security forces or local police, and most incidents occurred in the context of labor disputes. In one case cited by CTUHR, Rodrigo Gavino, a union vice-president actively involved with workers' issues at the General Milling Company in Cainta, Rizal province, was shot dead by company security guards inside the factory premises on April 5. President Ramos and the PNP leadership have expressed concern about police excesses and have initiated various programs to cleanse the force of abusive and criminal elements. Although progress has been slow, some offenders have been brought to justice. For example, a court in Benguet province in July sentenced five of the six policemen accused in the June 1992 rape-murder of three women and the attempted murder of another in La Union province to three consecutive life terms each. Nonetheless, these instances are the exception to the general rule of impunity that has prevailed for many years. Civilian militia units or "CAFGU's" (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units) also committed numerous extrajudicial killings. Organized by the police and AFP to secure areas cleared of insurgents, these nonprofessional units are often inadequately trained, poorly supervised, and prone to violence. (TFDP attributes 19 percent of all human rights abuses in the first year of the Ramos Presidency to CAFGU's.) In a case that attracted wide attention, CAFGU personnel were charged with killing Chris Batan, a TFDP worker, in Mountain province in February. Batan and two coworkers were doing field research related to human rights abuses during the Marcos era when they encountered several CAFGU members, who allegedly opened fire on Batan without provocation. Two CAFGU members were charged in Batan's death, but only one was arrested. The presiding judge in the case rejected the suspect's request for bail last October, but the suspect was reportedly on temporary release from jail at year's end. The judge has not yet ruled on a request by Batan's family for a change of venue from Bontoc in Mountain province, where they claim their personal safety is threatened. Inasmuch as Batan and his assailants were members of different hill tribes, this case also illustrates the role of intertribal hostility and other local feuds in some CAFGU-related human rights abuses. In January the International Labor Organization (ILO) added its voice to Philippine human rights organizations and other groups which have called on the Government to disband CAFGU's. The Government indicated that it would do so once the level of insurgent activity is brought down to the point where CAFGU's are no longer required. In October, President Ramos announced plans to demobilize 11,000 CAFGU's (out of a force of 72,000) by the end of 1994, using part of the 1994 CAFGU budget for separation allowances. Critics assert, however, that the Government is unlikely to carry out this plan because it fears resistance from militiamen and the sudden increase in local unemployment that would result from their disbandment. The NPA also was responsible for extrajudicial killings throughout the country in 1993. Several such killings were attributed to the Alex Boncayo Brigade (ABB), a notorious Communist hit squad controlled by the Manila-Rizal Regional Committee of the CPP, whose leader publicly threatened in June to use the ABB to assassinate up to one 1,000 drug dealers, corrupt officials, and other criminals unless the Government takes action against them. Other politically motivated murders were carried out by Muslim extremists, including members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the largest Muslim insurgent group. In April, for example, suspected MNLF members ambushed a passenger jeepney on the outskirts of the town of Baliguian in Davao Del Norte, killing five people and wounding eight others. Muslim extremists were also implicated in a series of terrorist bombings which injured or killed innocent bystanders. Most such bombings occurred in the south but several took place in Manila. Private security forces maintained by local landowners and other influential figures were another source of extrajudicial killings. National attention was focused on this longstanding problem by the arrest of the mayor of a town near Manila and a number of his henchmen (some of whom were policemen) on charges of murdering a University of the Philippines coed and her boyfriend in June. The publicity generated by the case inspired the Ramos Administration to undertake a nationwide campaign to dismantle "private armies." Although some arms have been confiscated, critics charge that most of these were old and of little practical use, and that the campaign has not targeted private armies controlled by politically powerful individuals. In what was seen by most observers as a tacit admission of the program's ineffectiveness, in November the administration indefinitely extended the deadline for dismantling private armed groups. Another wave of extrajudicial killings occurred after Manila mayor Alfredo Lim vowed in November to rid the city of its drug problem in six months or resign. During the next several weeks, about 20 alleged drug pushers were found murdered, many with signs beside their bodies reading, "Don't push drugs, you'll end up like me." While no suspects were charged, attention focused on drug gangs or police elements acting without official sanction.
The CHR cited five cases of disappearance in the first half of 1993 compared with 32 cases for all of 1992. TFDP reported a total of three disappearances for the first half of 1993 compared with 19 cases for all of 1992. The decline is largely attributable to the continued decrease in insurgent activity. The most notable case of disappearance was that of Olongapo publisher- columnist Romeo Legaspi who vanished on January 11. The Philippine Movement for Press Freedom, an NGO, claims that members of the local police force were responsible, citing Legaspi's history of criticizing the Olongapo police. Legaspi's family filed a complaint, but a regional trial court dismissed it for lack of evidence. Disappearance is linked with the problem of kidnapings for ransom. A spate of such kidnapings, mainly involving wealthy Philippine-Chinese as victims, attracted international attention in 1992. A concerted government crackdown, spearheaded by Vice President Joseph Estrada's Presidential Anticrime Commission, broke up several major kidnaping rings and sharply reduced the incidence of these crimes in early 1993. However, the problem of kidnaping persists, particularly in Mindanao where law and order problems are most severe. In August Senator Anna Domini Coseteng claimed that about 100 people were abducted by bandits, Communists, and Muslim extremists. Many of the victims were wealthy Philippine-Chinese who did not report the cases because they believed that law enforcement personnel were involved with the kidnapers. Kidnaping-for-ransom again emerged as a problem towards the end of the year, with wealthy Filipino-Chinese professionals as the primary targets, particularly those in Mindanao. Active service police and military are often implicated as leaders or members of kidnap gangs. For example, police general Dictador Alqueza and Col. Reynaldo Berroya were indicted in connection with the May kidnaping of a Taiwanese businessman.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture and makes evidence obtained thereby inadmissible in court. Guidelines issued by the CHR in 1988 direct all law-enforcement agencies and military elements to avoid unnecessary force during investigation, arrest, detention, interrogation, and other activities. Public outrage over highly publicized crimes led to government-supported moves in Congress to reinstate the death penalty. On December 13, President Ramos signed legislation reimposing capital punishment for 13 crimes classified as heinous, among them rape, kidnaping, and several drug-related offenses. The CHR reports two cases of torture in the first half of 1993, compared with 11 cases in 1992. The TFDP cites 14 cases in the first half of 1993, down from 33 during the second half of 1992. This decrease stems primarily from a decline in the number of government counterinsurgency operations. The CHR also cites an improved human rights awareness in the military, which it attributes to its practice of providing AFP promotion panels with "certificates of clearance" on officers' human rights performance. However, the statistics generally exclude incidents of torture involving common criminals or others outside the context of counterinsurgency activities. In addition, many cases go unreported because the victims fear reprisal if they seek redress. Although physical punishment is prohibited by law, it does occur in jails and prisons. Foreigners imprisoned in the Philippines have reported beatings and other maltreatment. Abuse of prisoners most commonly occurs in the arrest and interrogation stage, and police forces appear to be the chief offenders. In August a television crew videotaped police officers in Manila shooting and mauling suspects in a robbery case after they had been subdued. Allegations of such abuse are sometimes invoked in judicial proceedings, a notable example being the trial of six defendants charged with the 1991 rape-murder of Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters. In September, the judge in the case acquitted all six on the grounds that their confessions were obtained through intimidation and torture. CAFGU forces also frequently abused prisoners. Many CAFGU abuses of this type occur within the context of local political squabbles and tribal conflicts.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Although the Constitution requires a judicial determination of probable cause before issuance of an arrest warrant, and prohibits holding prisoners incommunicado or in secret places of detention, illegal arrest and detention continue to occur. Detainees have the right to a judicial review of the legality of their detention and, except for offenses punishable by a life sentence, to bail. An executive order requires authorities to file charges within 12 to 36 hours of arrest, depending on the seriousness of the crime. The CHR listed 42 cases of illegal arrest and detention for the first half of 1993 compared with 158 for all of 1992. The TFDP found that 254 persons were arrested illegally in the first half of 1993 compared with 938 such arrests in the previous year. This decline is attributable in part to the Government's efforts to promote the domestic peace process. In September 1992, it repealed the 1957 Antisubversion Law which had provided the legal basis for warrantless arrests and searches. President Ramos also approved "guidelines for grant of bail, release or pardon of persons detained or convicted of crimes against national security and public order, and violation of the Articles of War." Notwithstanding these measures, the TFDP claims that there are still about 350 political prisoners being held illegally. The Government disputes this charge, contending that all of the prisoners in question are being held for common crimes. It is likely that some of the 350 prisoners in question may have committed common crimes in the pursuit of their political beliefs. It is also possible that a few are actual or suspected Communists who were framed for common crimes. Proving this is difficult, however, and the burden of proof lies with the prisoner. The CTUHR reported an increase in the arrest and detention of workers during Ramos' first year (195 in the first half of 1993, compared to 54 in the second half of 1992). CTUHR attributes this increase in arrests and detentions to the Ramos administration's emphasis on economic development, which it claims has emboldened employers and their security forces and/or local police with close ties to important local business interests. The NPA is responsible for some extrajudicial arrests and detentions, often in connection with "courts" set up to try civilians and local politicians for "crimes against the people." Many defendants in such trials are summarily executed.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution calls for an independent judiciary and provides that those accused of crimes shall be informed of charges against them and have the right to counsel. Trials are public. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present evidence, and to appeal their convictions. The right of defendants to a lawyer is generally respected. Despite these safeguards and guarantees, the slow pace of justice continued to be a major problem. An example is the 3 years it took to obtain the conviction in March of one of the suspects in the 1990 killing of a U.S. Marine outside of Subic Bay naval base. Most trial courts remained backlogged, and only a few were in compliance with the 90-day limit for hearing a case. There continued to be an urgent and widely recognized need for more judges and courtrooms. The case of the policemen charged with the 1987 assassination attempt on former Polytechnic University of the Philippines president Nestor Prudente remained in the Philippine court system, and no information is available as to when the case may finally be settled. Bribery of judges and other court officials often results in indefinite postponement of trials and outright dismissal of cases. Out of court settlements also preclude many offenders from being brought to justice.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Under the Constitution, search warrants may be issued by a judge on a finding of probable cause. Restrictions on search and seizure are generally observed, although raids on private homes without search warrants are occasionally reported. Judges have thrown out evidence obtained illegally, even in politically sensitive cases, such as that of former NDF Chairman Satur Ocampo who was released in September 1992. The Government does not interfere with the free personal use of the mails or other public communications systems except upon issuance of a court order in the course of an investigation. It also does not interfere with the right of citizens to practice their personal beliefs in the privacy of their own home in matters such as family planning and the teaching of religion to their children.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Although clashes between government and insurgent forces declined, they continued to inflict hardships on civilians, particularly in remote areas which were the scene of most fighting. One example is the Marag Valley in northern Luzon, where many homes and livestock of indigenous peoples were destoyed in the course of government counterinsurgency operations against NPA units. According to TFDP figures, in the first half of 1993 there were 15 forced evacuations, two food blockades, four "violent dispersals" (i.e., forced evacuations in which violence was used), and 79 houses demolished. Most of these categories showed sharp declines over 1992. No information is available on the court martial recommended by the CHR in 1992 for two military officers responsible for bombing a refugee camp in Surigao Del Sur. According to the CHR, pre-trial investigations of its recommendations for courts martial often result in no charges being filed.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
There are virtually no legal restrictions on freedom of expression or speech, though libel and slander are criminally actionable. Freedom of the press is generally respected and courts have been consistent in their protection of the media. There are some 25 privately owned newspapers in Manila and many more in the provinces that cover the political spectrum and freely criticize the Government. (Most are owned or controlled by politicians and prominent businessmen.) Radio and television also enjoy considerable freedom. CPP publications became legal with the repeal of the Antisubversion Law in 1992. Journalists have been able without legal penalty to meet and interview both Communist insurgents and military rebels. The press, however, continues to face hazards in reporting on gambling, illegal logging, governmental corruption, or the drug trade. The dangers are greatest outside Manila where powerful vested interests involved in such activities sometimes employ violence to discourage media exposes. The Philippine Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF), an NGO, reports that in the first half of 1993 two journalists were killed, not including Romeo Legaspi (see Section 1.b.), who is still classified as missing, but presumed dead. The PMPF also reports several cases of reporters being assaulted or harassed, usually by local police or employees of local politicians. Academic freedom is respected in theory and practice. The Government does not censor subject matter in classes, university publications, or conferences.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Permits from local authorities are required for outdoor demonstrations in public places and are routinely issued. Nevertheless, rallies and marches are often held without permits. Private, professional, religious, social, charitable, labor, and political organizations are permitted to affiliate with recognized international bodies in their fields.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is no state religion. Freedom of religion is fully respected, and no official discrimination is practiced against any religious group or its members.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Filipinos enjoy unhampered freedom to change their place of residence and employment within the Philippines. Movement within the country is largely unimpeded. With rare exceptions, such as pending court cases, Filipinos are allowed to travel and work abroad. In December, President Ramos authorized the issuance of a passport valid for six months to CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison to allow him to enter the country for peace talks with the Government. The Government continued to provide first asylum to Indo-Chinese boat people and to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees immediate access. However, the historically tolerant official Philippine attitude toward refugees may be changing. In June the United States Government withdrew its year-long request to allow the temporary training of former Vietnamese political prisoners in the Philippines, citing unacceptable conditions put forward by the Philippine Government. Nevertheless, the Philippine Government does allow the United Nations to continue to operate the first-asylum camp on Palawan, housing 3,700 asylum seekers, and the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Bataan, from which approximately 15,000 persons were resettled in third countries in 1993.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The 1987 Constitution restored a presidential system of government similar to that in existence from 1946 to 1972. The new Constitution established a bicameral legislature, the Congress, and an independent judiciary as checks on executive power. Presidential authority to declare martial law was curtailed. Filipinos are free to organize political parties so long as they do not seek to overthrow the Government by force. Democratic opposition to the Government is widely tolerated, and there are no restrictions in law or practice on participation by women and minorities in politics. The Philippines has a multiparty political system with free elections based on universal (18 years and older) suffrage. In the Congress, the 24-member Senate is dominated by an opposition majority. While in the 200-seat House of Representatives, the Administration Party holds a majority and leads a coalition which includes several minor parties. Nineteen women now serve in the House, and three in the Senate.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The best known domestic human rights NGO is the TFDP. Established in 1974, it collects information on alleged human rights violations and publishes statistics on abuses attributed to the Government. The TFDP does not report on abuses by antigovernment organizations such as the NPA, and it includes in its definition of political prisoners those who have been detained for committing criminal acts in pursuit of their political beliefs. Other groups active in the human rights field include the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA). The latter organization represents numerous NGO's that monitor human rights conditions among various social and occupational groups. While these groups operate without government restriction, they are often viewed with suspicion by the military and police. Some local civilian officials also have been uncooperative. Employees of human rights groups in the field sometimes encounter harassment and a few have been killed. Chris Batan (see Section 1.a.) was a TFDP member. With 16 field offices and a staff of over 600, the CHR is the largest human rights organization in the Philippines. Although it lacks prosecutory powers, it is constitutionally mandated to investigate all alleged violations of human rights. The CHR has come under criticism for its failure to conduct field investigations unless a complaint is filed with one of its offices; a lack of direction from the Manila office, resulting in great variation in the effectiveness of the regional offices; and its inability to monitor the progress of cases referred to the Department of Justice or the military courts. However, the CHR's standing in the human rights community has risen since the appointment in late 1992 of a respected diplomat and prominent human rights activist as its chairman. The Presidential Committee on Human Rights (PCHR), composed of both government and NGO representatives, was established by Executive Order in late 1988 primarily to address the problem of disappearances. It subsequently evolved into an all-purpose human rights investigative task force and became the main forum for public debate on human rights issues during the final years of the Aquino administration. The PCHR is chaired by the Justice Secretary, and its members include representatives from the CHR; the Departments of National Defense and Foreign Affairs; the Office of the President; the Congress; and two private human rights groups, the PAHRA and the FLAG. TFDP and other groups are observers. In October, the PHRC met for the first time since President Ramos took office. Two subsequent meetings were held in November and December. Representatives of international human rights groups are free to travel in the Philippines and investigate alleged abuses. Government officials routinely meet and discuss human rights problems with foreign governmental and nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Women enjoy most, but not all of the legal rights and protections enjoyed by men. With the signing into law of the "Women in Development and Nation Building Act" in 1992, previous restrictions on women's rights to buy and sell property were terminated. It is uncertain, however, whether such legislation will be implemented fully. Past practice is not encouraging. For instance, a 1954 law allowing a woman to inherit the tenancy rights of her deceased husband is still often not enforced, in part due to women's lack of awareness of their legal rights, but primarily due to failure on the part of the Government to ensure its enforcement. Women and girls in the lower economic strata are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by unethical operators who promise employment overseas or arranged marriages with foreign men. Some of these women end up working as prostitutes or suffering abuse at the hands of their foreign employers or husbands. The plight of abused Philippine maids in Kuwait attracted widespread attention, but there were similar cases in other countries. Fillipino women were also extensively victimized by international sex trafficking syndicates, which recruited them through local placement firms to work abroad, ostensibly as maids, entertainer or models. Some women were duped by such offers, but others, facing bleak employment prospects at home, accepted them in the knowledge that they would be required to engage in prostitution. The Philippine Government has publicly warned Filipino women to beware of sex traffickers but it has not been notably successful in curbing their activities. The Government deplores these abuses, but has not moved energetically to bring criminal charges against those who profit from it. Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, is a serious problem in the Philippines. Wife beating is a common but is rarely reported, in large part because it is considered a private or family affair. Rape is also a major problem. According to a 1989 report by the National Peace and Order Council, police receive one rape case every five hours. The Center for Women's resource data bank estimates, however, that only 5 percent of rape victims report such crimes. Women's groups charge that accused rapists are dealt with leniently by the male-dominated law enforcement and judicial systems. A report prepared for a 1990 meeting of the ASEAN women's programme suggests that marital rape, which is not a crime under Philippine law, accounts for up to 90 percent of reported rape cases.
A number of government agencies, including the Departments of Health, Social Welfare and Development, and Education, Culture, and Sports have programs devoted to the welfare and development of children. The Philippines-UNICEF Fourth Country Programme of Cooperation for Children (1994 to 1998) has just been completed. This $60 million plan has a $22.5 million commitment from UNICEF, which is seeking supplementary funding for the balance. Many Philippine children face serious problems stemming from widespread poverty and government inability to intervene effectively. Street begging, child prostitution, child labor, and truancy are all too common. Child prostitution is a particular problem in the larger cities. While there are few available statistics and studies on this problem, social workers and others who work among the poor attest to its gravity. There are no truancy laws in the Philippines, but free public education and cultural values act to keep about 60 percent of children in school through grade six (age 12). In 1993 the Government acted to strengthen laws to stem the practice of child labor (see Section 6.d.). Many children have been orphaned or otherwise adversely affected by the ongoing insurgencies. Some have been traumatized, often with lasting deleterious effects, by witnessing warfare on a regular basis. This problem is particularly acute in the mountainous areas of northern Luzon and Mindanao where fighting continues. Considerable public attention has focused on the plight of the between 5,000 and 10,000 Amerasian children living in poverty near former U.S. military bases. Although Philippine culture is relatively tolerant toward the offspring of racially mixed marriages, some Amerasians do experience discrimination. A suit pending in U.S. courts alleges that the U.S. Navy encouraged the prostitution that contributed to this problem. Many groups in the Philippines, some of which receive USAID funding, are working to provide improved health care, housing, and educational opportunities for disadvantaged children, including Amerasians.
Indigenous peoples, found throughout the Philippines but primarily in mountainous areas, account for 2 to 3 percent of the total population. The two areas of greatest concentration are the Cordilleran region of northern Luzon and Mindanao. Although there are no specific laws that discriminate against indigenous peoples, the remoteness of the areas they inhabit and a cultural bias against them by the majority population tend to prevent their full integration into Philippine society. Their ability to participate meaningfully in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources is minimal. Although the 1987 Constitution calls for the protection of the ancestral lands and culture of indigenous peoples, no enabling laws have been passed to give effect to these provisions. Because they inhabit mountainous areas favored by guerrillas, indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately from counterinsurgency operations. TABAK, an indigenous peoples' NGO, reports that the vast majority of the 7,568 families displaced by fighting in Mindanao during the first half of 1993 were indigenous peoples. Another major grievance of indigenous peoples is the loss of their ancestral lands to what they regard as "development aggression." The Government often does not recognize the legality of indigenous peoples' claim to such lands, which have been utilized extensively for hydroelectric dams, mining operations, and other large-scale development projects. The indigenous peoples affected by these projects deeply resent their forced relocation and the destruction of farming and hunting lands they have used for centuries. In April, for example, members of the Bugkalot Tribe in Nueva Viscaya protested the construction of a 300-megawatt dam on the Cagayan River that will submerge 3,600 hectares of their land and displace 18,000 members of their tribe.
Although people of Chinese ancestry have extensively intermarried with other Philippines and are relatively well assimilated, there is a distinct Philippine-Chinese community numbering perhaps 1 to 2 percent of the population. Its wealthier members play a prominent role in the nation's economic life and are the object of some resentment. As noted in Section 1.b., they have been a primary target of kidnaping for ransom.
Muslims, who comprise about 5 percent of the population and live principally in Mindanao and adjacent islands, constitute the largest minority group. Muslims historically have been alienated from the dominant Christian majority, and their disaffection increased with the influx of Philippine Christian settlers since the 1950's. Efforts to integrate Muslims into the political and economic fabric of the country have met with only limited success. Philippine culture, with its emphasis on familial, tribal, and regional loyalties, creates informal barriers whereby access to jobs or resources is provided first to those of one's own family or group. Another factor is that many Muslims prefer to educate their children in Muslim schools, which has deprived them of the skills required to advance in some occupations. The autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was inaugurated in November 1990 to meet the demand of Muslims for local autonomy in areas where they hold a majority or are a substantial minority. However, the ARMM continues to suffer from serious problems. Limited to the four provinces which elected to join, it falls short of representing the aspirations of all Muslims in the region. Additionally, the ARMM government is hobbled by an inadequate tax base and a continued shortfall in promised central government assistance.
People with Disabilities
A 1983 law provides for equal physical access for the disabled to all public buildings and establishments and a law passed in 1992, provides for "the rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society". It is intended to protect the disabled from discrimination and to provide them health and social services. Advocates of the handicapped maintain that these laws have not been enforced fully, citing inadequate government funding, widespread evasion, and lingering prejudice against the handicapped among many Filipinos. Under the Aquino administration, one of the appointed sectoral seats in the House of Representatives was filled by a disabled person tasked to represent the concerns of the disabled. President Ramos has not appointed anyone to such a position. Advocates of the disabled welcome increased efforts by the Government to immunize children and improve their primary health care, which will help to decrease the number of disabled in the future. In early 1993, the government launched an immunization campaign which included a program to eliminate polio by the end of the decade.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The right of workers, including public employees, to form and join trade unions is assured by the Constitution and legislation, and it is freely practiced without formal government interference throughout the country. Trade unions and trade union federations are largely independent of the Government and of political parties. Unions have, and exercise freely, the right to form or join federations and confederations and to affiliate with international trade union organizations. Subject to certain procedural restrictions in the 1989 Labor Code (the Herrera Act) and emergency executive powers, strikes in the private sector are legal. Restrictions include the obligation to provide notice, respect for mandatory cooling-off periods, and the need to obtain majority approval before calling a strike. The 1989 law also stipulates that all means of reconciliation must be exhausted and the strike issue has to be relevant to the labor contract or the law. Some labor organizations maintain that these stipulations favor employers by giving them many avenues to declare a strike illegal and take action against the strikers. The ILO's Committee of Experts (COE) reiterated in 1993 its criticisms that some of the Philippine Labor Code provisions, including the Secretary of Labor's power to order compulsory arbitration to thwart strikes in industries deemed essential to the national interest, are not in conformity with ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association. Labor law also bans unfair practices strikes during the term of a collective bargaining agreement, which has been the subject of international criticisms as well. Labor organizations have also expressed concern that the growing practice of subcontracting by employers adversely affects unions. Strikes in the transport and banking sectors were significant in 1993. However, the total number of participating workers and lost workdays declined compared to 1992. According to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), an NGO, three trade union leaders and labor activists were killed in connection with their activities during the first year of the Ramos Presidency. There were also 15 attempted murders. The CTUHR reported an increase in the arrest and detention of workers during Ramos' first year (195 in the first half of 1993, compared to 54 in the second half of 1992).
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
Except for government employees, labor's right to organize and bargain collectively is guaranteed by law. The number of collective bargaining agreements in force has increased in recent years, as have the number of registered unions. There were 5715 such unions as of June. Dismissal of a union official or worker trying to organize a union is considered an unfair labor practice under Philippine law. Nevertheless, employers sometimes attempt to intimidate workers by threats of firing or closure. The CTUHR has documented cases of worker dismissals which it claims were intended solely to get rid of union members. Allegations of intimidation and discrimination in connection with union activities are grounds for review as possible unfair labor practices before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The NLRC and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) provide the DOLE with quasi-judicial mechanisms for hearing and adjudicating workers' claims. The process has been slow but no slower than other parts of the courts and the bureaucracy. Through the first 9 months of the year, a total of 100 work stoppages were recorded, resulting in some 515,000 workdays being lost. On an annualized basis, this suggests a lower total number of workdays lost in 1993 than in 1992 (724,000). Labor law and practice are uniform throughout the country, including export processing zones (EPZ's). The rate of unionization and the number of collective bargaining agreements concluded in most EPZ's are similar to those in the rest of the country, although the proportions are much lower in the new EPZ's. However, some labor sources have complained that anti-union discrimination does exist in the EPZ's. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), one of the more militant labor organizations, reported that 200 strikers were injured when they were fired on by police water cannons during a strike in the Bataan EPZ on August 9. According to the KMU, the plant was closed but later reopened under a different name and hired nonunion employees.
c. Prohibition of Compulsory or Forced Labor
The Philippines has ratified ILO Convention 105, which prohibits forced labor and has the force of law in the country. The ILO has criticized provisions in the law that punish workers convicted for participation in illegal strikes with an obligation to perform prison labor.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Constitution prohibits the employment of children below age 15, except under the responsibility of parents or guardians, and then only if the work does not interfere with schooling. It allows employment for those between the ages of 15 and 18 for such hours and periods of the day as are determined by the Secretary of Labor but forbids employment of persons under 18 years of age in hazardous or deleterious work. However, a significant number of children are employed in the informal sector of the urban economy or as field laborers in the more rural areas. Secretary of Labor Confesor has spoken publicly against the health hazards to children working with pesticides in agricultural areas. In June 1992, President Aquino signed into law the Child Protection Act, most provisions of which were applauded by advocates of children's rights, except for a controversial clause permitting the provisional employment of children under the age of 15. Legislation this year tightened this provision to allow employment under the age of 15 only under the direct and sole responsibility of a parent or legal guardian, or where the employment in cinema/theater/radio or television is essential. The parent/guardian or employer is in each case required to ensure the child's health, safety, and morals and to provide for the child's education or training and to procure a work permit from DOLE. The most serious violations of child labor laws occur in piecework or contracting out of embroidery and other garment-related production, much of which is exported. Children have also been used in dangerous and ecologically damaging forms of fishing that use dynamite. The Government has investigated and attempted to reduce violations of child labor laws outside the agricultural sector through well-publicized raids on reported violators. Government investigators have relied on tips provided by concerned NGOs. In July the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raided a sardine factory in Manila and found 27 children under 17 years of age working in sweatshop conditions. The NBI acted on a tip from the Kamalayan Development Center, an NGO, which found that some of the youths, who were brought in from the provinces by a recruitment agency, had been working in the factory for over a year without pay and had not been allowed to leave.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Minimum Wage Act of 1989 is the authority for minimum wages set by regional wage boards. The rates were last set in December 1990, with the highest in the Manila area and lower rates in rural areas. The minimum wage for workers in the nonagricultural sector in the national capital region was $4.21 (P118) per day, which was well below the National Economic Development Administration's standard of a $5.57 (P156) per day minimum subsistence level for a family of six in that area. The lowest regional minimum wage was $3.18 (P89) per day in Mindanao. Despite labor's calls for an across-the-board increase in the minimum wage, the Ramos administration has favored leaving responsibility for adjustments to the minimum wage with the country's 15 tripartite regional wage boards. Boards that met in late 1993 set wage increases to take effect in December 1993 or early 1994. Judging from available data, compliance with existing minimum wage standards has improved. DOLE surveys show that in the first half of 1993 16 percent of 17,500 establishments nationwide were in violation of minimum wage standards. This figure is about equal to the 1992 figure and represents a decrease from the 1991 rate of 26 percent. In the national capital region, 7 percent of employers surveyed were in noncompliance. The highest noncompliance rate in other regions was 36 percent. However, substantial numbers of workers, such as domestics, laborers, janitors, messengers, and drivers, are not covered by minimum wage requirements. The standard legal workweek before overtime is 48 hours for most categories of industrial workers and 40 hours for government workers, with an 8 hour per day limit. An overtime rate of 125 percent of one's hourly rate is mandated for any hours worked over the 8 per day limit. The law mandates a full day of rest weekly. The enforcement of workweek hours is managed through periodic Labor Department standards inspections by the DOLE. Employees with more than 1 year on the job are entitled to 5 days of paid leave annually. A comprehensive set of occupational safety and health standards exists in law. Little information is available on actual industrial and occupational health conditions beyond the undocumented, but well known, problems in such industries as pyrotechnics, garment manufacturing, canning, and fishing with dynamite or poison. DOLE statistics show that in the first half of 1993, 17 percent of 5,000 establishments inspected were in violation of "technical safety standards". This figure represents a decrease from the 1992 rate of 20 percent. Multinational firms apply U.S., European, or Japanese standards of worker safety and health to meet the requirements of their home-based insurance carriers.
In this section
U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Philippines
Discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity
Economic, social and cultural rights
Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
Freedom of assembly and association
Freedom of expression
Freedom of movement
Freedom of religion
Freedom of speech
Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
Social group discrimination
Trafficking in persons
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