Last updated: 16 May 2024


Historically, civil society has played an important role in toppling dictators and bringing to light graft and corruption in the Philippines’ public and private sectors. Civil society has also aided the government in ensuring accountability and transparency within its ranks and in providing basic services to underprivileged and marginalized citizens.

Recognizing the crucial contributions of its civil society to democracy, the Philippines adopted a policy to “encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation” in the 1987 Constitution. The policy for civil society engagement and citizen participation has been operationalized in laws and regulations. Civic freedoms are protected by the Constitution and have been established by the Supreme Court in jurisprudence.

Despite these legal protections, civil society organizations (CSOs) and human rights defenders have continually been attacked and threatened for criticizing State policies and programs that adversely affect human rights and civic freedoms.

Civic space in the Philippines has significantly shrunk in the last decade as the government continues to relentlessly implement its anti-criminality and anti-terror programs. Civil society actors and human rights advocates that criticize and expose violations committed in furtherance of these policies have roused the ire of government officials, who have persistently threatened and vilified civil society actors.

This Civic Freedom Monitor country note was made possible through the research conducted by Melanie Pinlac, a lawyer in the Philippines.
Organizational Forms
Non-governmental organizations  Non-stock, non-profit corporations
Registration Body


Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Approximate Number
The SEC recorded a total of 172,088 active foreign and domestic non-stock corporations in the Philippines as of December 31, 2022. In its 2021 NPO Sector Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment Report, the SEC reported that there are 64,086 registered non-profit organizations as of December 31, 2020. The SEC recorded a total of 172,088 active foreign and domestic non-stock corporations in the Philippines as of December 31, 2022. In its 2021 NPO Sector Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment Report, the SEC reported that there are 64,086 registered non-profit organizations as of December 31, 2020.
Barriers to Entry
Registration of non-governmental organizations and non-stock, non-profit corporations is not mandatory. However, unregistered organizations do not enjoy tax benefits and may not be qualified to receive donations from government agencies.



Registration of non-governmental organizations and non-stock, non-profit corporations is not mandatory. However, unregistered organizations do not enjoy tax benefits and may not be qualified to receive donations from government agencies.



Barriers to Operations/Activities
Requirement to have a permit, license, or accreditation from government agencies to conduct certain activities.



Requirement to have a permit, license, or accreditation from government agencies to conduct certain activities.

Activities of SEC-registered Non-stock, non-profit corporations must be in furtherance of the purposes listed in their Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.

Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy
Several laws have been used to restrict the exercise of the right to free speech and advocacy, such as the Revised Penal Code provisions on defamatory expressions, including libel and slander, and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 provision on online libel. The Revised Penal Code provisions on incitement to rebellion, insurrection, and sedition have also been used against critics and dissenters. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 may also adversely affect the exercise of free speech and association in the Philippines. Several laws have been used to restrict the exercise of the right to free speech and advocacy, such as the Revised Penal Code provisions on defamatory expressions, including libel and slander, and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 provision on online libel. The Revised Penal Code provisions on incitement to rebellion, insurrection, and sedition have also been used against critics and dissenters. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 may also adversely affect the exercise of free speech and association in the Philippines.
Barriers to International Contact
No legal barriers No legal barriers
Barriers to Resources
Funds received by non-stock, non-profit organizations may be subject to the rules of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act. Funds received by non-stock, non-profit organizations are subject to the rules of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, like other corporations and financial institutions.

Registered non-stock, non-profit corporations may engage in profitable activities incidental to their operations. Any profit obtained from such activities must “be used for the furtherance of the purposes for which the corporation was organized.”

Barriers to Assembly
The Philippine Constitution prohibits the passage of laws “abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” However, the Public Assembly Act of 1985 (Batas Pambansa Blg. 880) requires a written permit from the mayor’s office for any public assembly held in a public place. Only a written notice is required for assemblies held in designated or established freedom parks. The Philippine Constitution prohibits the passage of laws “abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” However, the Public Assembly Act of 1985 (Batas Pambansa Blg. 880) requires a written permit from the mayor’s office for any public assembly held in a public place. Only a written notice is required for assemblies held in designated or established freedom parks.
116,434,200 (2023 est.)
Type of Government
Presidential republic
Life Expectancy at Birth
Total population: 70.48 years (male: 66.97 years, female: 74.15 years) (2023 est.)
Literacy Rate
Total population: 96.3% (male: 95.7%, female: 96.9%) (2019)
Religious Groups
Roman Catholic 79.5%, Muslim 6%, Iglesia ni Cristo 2.6%, Evangelical 2.4%, National Council of Churches in the Philippines 1.1%, other 7.4%, none <0.1% (2015 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Tagalog 24.4%, Bisaya/Binisaya 11.4%, Cebuano 9.9%, Ilocano 8.8%, Hiligaynon/Ilonggo 8.4%, Bikol/Bicol 6.8%, Waray 4%, other local ethnicity 26.1%, other foreign ethnicity .1% (2010 est.)
GDP per capita
$8,100 (2021 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking Body
Ranking Scale
(best – worst)
UN Human Development Index
116 (2022) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index
100 (2023) 1 – 139
Transparency International
116 (2023) 1 – 180
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
61 (2023) 179 – 1
Freedom House: Freedom in the World
Status: Partly Free
Total Score: 58
Political Rights: 25
Civil Liberties: 33 (2023)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 100
1 – 40
1 – 60

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Yes 1986
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) and
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP2-DP)




International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Yes 1974
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
Yes 1967
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Yes 2003
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)
Yes 1995
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes 2008
Regional Treaties
ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
Yes 2012

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

Fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of peaceable assembly, and freedom of association are protected under Article III in the Constitutions Bill of Rights.

Section 4 of the Bill of Rights provides that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Access to information on matters of public concern is provided in Section 7 of the same Article. This right is subject to limitations as may be provided by law. Currently, there is no national legislation on the access to information. Limitations are culled from jurisprudence, rules, and regulations. Included are privileged communication and information pertaining to national security and sensitive diplomatic matters. In 2016, departments, offices, and agencies under the executive branch were mandated to create their own People’s Freedom of Information Manuals by President Rodrigo Duterte through Executive Order No. 02.

The people’s right to association is protected under Section 8 of Article III. Section 8 states: “The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged.” The right to self-organization for government employees is reiterated in Section 2(5) of Article IX-B.

Section 15, Article XIII mandates the State to “respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means.”

Meanwhile, Section 16 of Article XIII protects the right to “effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making.” It provides for “the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms” by law. Such participation is also mandated under Section 14 of Article X (Local Governments), which requires membership of representatives from non-governmental organizations in development councils.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting the CSO Sector

  • Protection of Civic Freedoms

The Civil Code of the Philippines provides remedies against infringements of basic human rights. Article 32 allows the filing of a damages suit against those who directly or indirectly obstruct, defeat, violate, impede, or impair rights and liberties of another person. Article 19 of the Civil Code may also be used against those who exercise their rights to harm or abuse others.

Meanwhile, the special writs of amparo and habeas data have also been invoked for the protection of the life, liberty and security of human rights defenders and civil society leaders. The Supreme Court’s rules on procedures for environmental abuses include provisions against strategic lawsuits against public participation.

  • Public Participation

Collaboration between NGOs and certain government entities is provided for in laws such as the Local Government Code, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

  • Formation and Registration

The creation and registration of non-stock, non-profit organizations are governed by the Revised Corporation Code. Some taxation benefits can be found in the National Internal Revenue Code. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have released memoranda and circulars affecting registered civil society organizations.

  • Restrictions on Civic Freedoms

Some provisions of the Revised Penal Code have been used to restrict and stifle the exercise of civic freedoms. The Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 and other anti-terrorism, anti-insurgency issuances of the Executive have been used to target CSOs critical of the government. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which repeals the HSA, was enacted into law and took effect in July 2020. (See below “Anti-Terrorism Act”.)

Since the declaration of a state of public emergency, several COVID-19 related laws and issuances, such as the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act and the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Disease and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, have been invoked by law enforcement to stifle online and offline dissent. However, the Bayanihan Act was in effect only until June 2020 because the Philippine Congress did not act to extend it.

  • Anti-Terrorism Act

On July 3, 2020, Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) was signed into law amid widespread protests. The ATA introduces provisions which were not in the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, such as Inciting to Commit Terrorist Acts and Recruitment to and Membership in A Terrorist Organization. It also expands the definition of terrorism and broadens the power of state authorities regarding the Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications and the Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest on mere suspicion that a person engages in acts of terrorism.

Under the new anti-terrorism law, the Anti-Terrorism Council has the power on its own to designate persons and organizations as terrorists. The bill also allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze a designated organization’s assets pursuant to the Terrorism Financing Law.

The ATA also excludes HSA’s Section 50 on Damages for Unproven Charge of Terrorism. Section 50 required the police agency or the Anti-Terrorism Council to pay any person acquitted of terrorism “damages in the amount of PHP 500,000 for every day that he or she was detained or deprived of liberty or arrested without a warrant as a result of the accusation.”

In October 2020, the Philippine’s executive department approved the ATA’s implementing rules and regulations. The IRR reiterated provisions of the ATA which have been criticized for vagueness and overbreadth. It introduced provisions such as the process of delisting after publication of the names of individuals and organizations designated as terrorists and the inclusion of “creative, artistic, and cultural expressions” among acts not considered as terrorism, depending on their purpose or intention.

At least 37 groups of petitioners sought the repeal in part or in toto of the ATA before the Supreme Court of the Philippines. In December 2021, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional two portions of the Anti-Terrorism Act and their corresponding provisions in the IRR:

(1) the phrase in Section 4 which penalizes advocacy, protest, dissent and other similar exercise of civil and political rights as terrorism based on perceived intention or purpose “to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety;” and,

(2) the power of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) under Section 25 to approve requests by other states or supranational entities to designate individuals or organizations as terrorist who meet the criteria under UNSCR No. 1373.

However, the Supreme Court upheld other controversial provisions of the ATA as constitutional, including the powers of the ATC to authorize detention without judicial warrant of arrest and to designate individuals and groups as terrorists on its own finding of probable cause that they have committed, are attempting to commit, or have conspired to commit acts penalized by the law. It should be noted that designated persons may be put under surveillance upon written order of the Court of Appeals. The Anti-Money Laundering Council may also examine and freeze their properties and funds allegedly used for terrorism financing.

Reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s decision was sought. However, the Supreme Court denied with finality the motions for reconsideration on April 26, 2022.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Both Houses of the 19th Congress are currently discussing proposed laws that may affect the exercise of civic freedoms in the Philippines.

  • Freedom of Expression and Opinion

Bills seeking to penalize the spread of disinformation and misinformation are currently pending before 19th Congress. The bills propose imprisonment and fines for persons and organizations disseminating false news or fake news. One of the bills — House Bill No. 2971 — proposes to include the creation and dissemination of fake news among the Content-related Offenses under Section 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Two of the proposed laws — House Bill No. 2971 and Senate Bill No. 1590 — seek to include the creation and dissemination of fake news among the Content-related Offenses under Section 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The bills similarly define fake news as “misinformation and disinformation of stories, facts, and news which is presented as a fact, the veracity of which cannot be confirmed, with the purpose of distorting the truth and misleading its audience.”

Introduced on August 10, 2023, Senate Bill No. 2403 seeks to repeal libel provisions in the Revised Penal Code and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The bill was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Justice and Human Rights after its first reading on August 14, 2023.

  • Public Participation and Public Assembly

A “New Public Assembly Act” has been proposed before the House of Representatives. The House bill seeks the repeal of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP No.) 880, which requires organizers and leaders to acquire permits from the mayor to hold rallies in public places except in designated freedom parks. While  the proposed bill states that the organizer only needs to give notice to the mayor who has jurisdiction over the place of assembly, it simultaneously prohibits the “holding of a public assembly at a time and place other than that approved by the city or municipal mayor.” The bill has been pending with the Committee on People’s Participation since July 26, 2022.

Several bills propose the creation of “people’s councils” in local government units (LGUs). To enjoy certain privileges such as participation in the people’s councils and assistance from the LGUs under these bills civil society organizations, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations are required to register with the local sanggunians (local legislative bodies) through a committee for accreditation of CSOs. The local sanggunians also have the power to withdraw recognition of the people’s council on certain grounds such as involvement in partisan political activities.

There are also bills proposed to include the participation of civil society organizations in the annual national budget processes.

  • Protection against Harassment and Vilification

The penalization of red-tagging committed by public officers or through the use of public funds has been proposed before the 19th Congress. One of the bills, House Bill No. 1152, or the proposed “Anti-Red-Tagging Act of 2021,” defines red-tagging as “the act of publicly labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations of being state enemies, subversives, armed rebels, communists or terrorists, or fronts thereof, thereby implying or insinuating involvement or engagement in armed rebellion, acts of terrorism or any wrong doing or criminal acts.”

Bills defining rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders are also pending before the 19th Congress.  The bills outline the obligations of the State and public authorities to ensure respect, promotion, and protection of human rights defenders.

The Philippine Congress is also discussing proposals for a law to compensate victims of human rights violations as well as a comprehensive anti-discrimination act.

  • Exercise of Religious Freedoms

The proposed Magna Carta on Religious Freedom Act (House Bill No. 6492) was approved on its third and final reading at the House of Representative on 23 January 2023. The House version was transmitted to the Senate on 24 January 2023.

The proposed Magna Carta provides exceptions to the free exercise of religion or conscience, particularly when such exercise results to violence, physical or material harm, or infringement of a group’s or individual’s own freedom of religion. Under the bill, curtailment must be necessary to protect public safety, public order, health, property and good morals. It also imposes imprisonment and fines on persons who commit any of the prohibited acts such as defamation based on one’s religious beliefs and obstruction of “flow and access to religious information.”

Among rights protected in the Magna Carta are the right of companies or businesses to be founded on religious beliefs, and the right of churches and religious organizations to be exempt from paying taxes on real properties that are directly and exclusively used for religious purposes.

Organizational Forms

The Philippine Constitution recognizes the existence of non-governmental, community-based sectoral organizations, as well as people’s organizations. It defines people’s organizations in Section 16, Article XIII as “bona fide associations of citizens with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and with identifiable leadership, membership, and structure.”

CSOs formally register as non-stock corporations with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Revised Corporation Code (RCC) describes a nonstock corporation as “one where no part of its income is distributable as dividends to its members, trustees, or officers.”

The establishment of a non-stock corporation may be for “charitable, religious, educational, professional, cultural, fraternal, literary, scientific, social, civic service, or similar purposes, like trade, industry, agricultural and like chambers, or any combination thereof.” A non-stock corporation can be created for more than one purpose, but the secondary purpose should not contradict or change its nature as a non-stock corporation.

Aside from the SEC registration, CSOs must also obtain tax identification numbers from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). They may also be required to seek business operation permits from the local government units (LGUs) where their main offices are located. Accreditation from the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) is needed for tax and donation purposes.

Note that Republic Act No. 10693 governs registration of microfinance NGOs. The Act establishes the Microfinance NGO Regulatory Council to oversee the accreditation of such NGOs. In addition, those participating in the party-list system must register with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), not with the SEC. A certificate of registration issued by the COMELEC will endow the organization with juridical personality.

Approximate Number

The SEC recorded a total of 172,088 active foreign and domestic non-stock corporations in the Philippines as of December 31, 2022. In its 2021 NPO Sector Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment Report, the SEC reported that there are 64,086 registered non-profit organizations as of December 31, 2020. Non-profit organization is defined as “an SEC registered Non-Stock Corporation that primarily engages in raising or disbursing funds for purposes such as charitable, religious, cultural, educational, social or fraternal purposes, or for the carrying out of other types of good works” under SEC Memorandum Circular No. 25, series of 2019.

Public Benefit Status

Duly registered non-stock corporations may be eligible for income tax exemptions under Section 30 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997. Income refers to that “derived in furtherance of the purposes for which [the non-stock corporation] was organized under Section 30 of the NIRC.” Income derived from real properties and other for-profit activities remains taxable. Certificates of tax exemption may be secured from the Revenue Regional Offices.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employs two tests in awarding an income tax exemption:

  • The Organizational Test, proved by documents such as SEC registration, Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws; and
  • The Operational Test, proved by the fact that the regular activities of the corporation are exclusively devoted to the accomplishment of the purposes specified in Section 30 of the NIRC. The corporation will fail this test if does not conduct activities in furtherance of the purpose for which it was organized, or if a substantial part of its operations constitutes “activities conducted for profit”.

Among those entities listed is a non-stock corporation or association organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, athletic, or cultural purposes, or for the rehabilitation of veterans, no part of its net income or asset belongs to or inures to the benefit of any member, organizer, officer or any specific person. The definitions of corporate purposes can be found in Revenue Memorandum Order No. 38-2019.

Another organization exempt from income tax is a civic league or organization not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.

Meanwhile, tax deduction and exemption benefits may only apply when the donee institution is accredited by the BIR.

The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons provides a five-year realty tax holiday for non-governmental institutions establishing homes, residential communities, or retirement villages solely to suit the needs and requirements of persons with disabilities.

Public Participation

The people’s right to effective and reasonable participation is recognized in Section 16, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution. Article XIII reads: “The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by law, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.”

This mandate has been operationalized in several national laws, such as the Local Government Code of 1991 and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA). Most government agencies and departments have their own Citizen’s Charter, which provides mechanisms for feedbacks and complaints.

The laws mandate periodic and prior consultations with NGOs and affected communities in government development projects. For example, the Local Government Code prohibits the implementation of any project unless consultations are conducted with NGOs, people’s organizations, and other concerned sectors. IPRA requires that the free and prior informed consent of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples must be secured in advance of any exploration or development of ancestral lands and domains.

Laws allow collaboration between government agencies and NGOs. In fact, select government agencies and institutions are required to have civil society organization representatives. For example, the Local Government Code mandates that local development councils must include two NGO representatives. In June 2022, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) released guidelines on the accreditation of CSOs seeking representation in local special bodies (LSBs) under Memorandum Circular No. 2022-083.  LSBs include the Local Development Council, Local Health Board, Local School Board, and Local Peace and Order Council.

The Magna Carta of Women also requires government collaboration with media-related NGOs in the formulation of policies and programs for non-discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of women in the media.

The Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act mandates engagement with NGOs who “focus on the upliftment of the basic or disadvantaged sectors of society by providing advocacy, training, community organizing, research, access to resources, and other similar activities.” An NGO representative sits as a member of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Aside from the above-mentioned mechanisms, the 1987 Philippine Constitution allots 20 percent of the total seats at the House of Representatives (lower House of the Philippine Congress) to party-list representatives from national, regional, and sectoral organizations. Among the sectors represented in the party-list system are labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, and youth.

Unfortunately, however, these public participation mechanisms have reportedly been exploited and mismanaged. Indigenous peoples, for instance, claimed that the IPRA provision on free and prior informed consent has not been properly observed. In 2019, the indigenous peoples living in the area near the Kaliwa Dam alleged that the government’s Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerages System and even the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples manipulated the process by offering monetary compensation in exchange for their consent.

In addition, environmental activists have come under pressure from the State. Two environmental activists faced perjury charges after revealing their abduction by military personnel during a press conference hosted by the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on September 19, 2023. Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were supposed to explain their “voluntary surrender” during the press conference. However, Castro and Tamano publicly denied having surrendered and instead claimed that they were forcibly taken by the army and coerced to sign affidavits of surrender. The two activists had been missing for more than two weeks by the time of the press conference. A petition for the issuance of the protective writs in favor of Castro and Tamano was subsequently pending before the Supreme Court.

In January 2021, the Department of Interior and Local Government issued a Memorandum institutionalizing People’s Councils in all local government units. It required organizations seeking accreditation and applying to the People’s Councils to secure clearances from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. The Memorandum stated that this requirement was “for security reasons and to determine the legitimacy of the CSOs intending to apply for accreditation and CSOs intending to join the local Peoples Council.” It also stated that existing clearances should indicate that the CSO “is cleared from any subversive and illegal activities.” Human rights groups and CSOs criticized the requirement and said it contributes to the shrinking civic space in the Philippines. In May 2021, the DILG issued an Amendment expressly repealing the said Memorandum.

Meanwhile, the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has also sought  cancellation of the registration of some party-list groups with the Commission on Elections. NTF-ELCAC alleges that these party-list groups are “communist fronts.

Barriers to Entry

Registration of civil society organizations is not mandatory in the Philippines. However, unregistered CSOs do not enjoy the taxation benefits awarded to duly registered organizations. They may not be qualified to receive donations or funding from government agencies. Also, some private sector entities prefer to donate to duly registered organizations to avail themselves of the tax deduction for charitable contributions.

The Revised Corporation Code provides that any person, partnership, association, or corporation may be an incorporator, defined as “those stockholders or members mentioned in the articles of incorporation as originally forming and composing the corporation and who are signatories thereof.”

There may be two but not more than 15 incorporators; all must be members of the nonstock corporation. Natural persons must be of legal age. The partnership, association or domestic corporation must be SEC-registered.

To be registered, a non-stock corporation applicant must submit its Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws before the SEC issues a Certificate of Incorporation. The prescribed content and form of the Articles are in Section 13 and 14 of the RCC.

Barriers to Operational Activity


Activities conducted by registered non-stock, non-profit organizations must be in furtherance of the purposes listed in their Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.

Certain activities may require a permit, license, or accreditation from government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, or the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. For example, any person or organization desiring to solicit or receive contributions for charitable or public welfare purposes must acquire a permit from the DSWD as per Presidential Decree No. 1564. This rule was recently reiterated by the Department amidst the various donation drives conducted by CSOs and private individuals for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reporting Requirements

All corporations are required to annually submit their General Information Sheet and their Annual Financial Statement. In 2018, the SEC imposed additional reporting requirements for non-stock, non-profit organizations in an alleged effort to protect them from money laundering and terrorist financing abuse. The SEC has since revised the guidelines and released the latest version in December 2019. The SEC memorandum circular requires mandatory disclosures of sensitive information, which may expose vulnerable groups and individuals to risk. It was criticized by CSOs for being burdensome and unnecessary. Many CSOs viewed the memorandum as an attempt to deter funding for organizations critical of the government and those allegedly linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Counter-terrorism Programs that Impede Operational Activity

In December 2018, President Duterte adopted a “whole-of-nation” approach to attain inclusive and sustainable peace, creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) through Executive Order No. 70.

The whole-of-nation approach supposedly “addresses the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, and other armed conflict and threats by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society.” Despite these stated aims, NTF-ELCAC has harassed and vilified human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations that it claims to be linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front.

In November 2020, the Philippine Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation held an inquiry into red-tagging and red-baiting by NTF-ELCAC officials. During the Senate inquiry, it was confirmed that some party-list groups and non-governmental organizations are targeted by NTF-ELCAC for allegedly being “legal fronts” of the CPP. An official revealed that the task force was speaking with foreign donors about cutting off funding to these red-tagged organizations.

The inquiry came after a military official, who sits as ex-officio member of the NTF-ELCAC, warned some celebrities against participating in activities held by a women’s group and its youth arm. The military official claimed that the actress and other artists are being or will be recruited to the New People’s Army.

In June 2022, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to the websites of alleged organizations affiliated with or supporting terrorists and terrorist groups. Among the websites blocked by the ISPs were those operated by independent media outfits as well as by religious groups and NGOs which have been vilified as “legal fronts” of the CPP. The NTC oversees the registration of ISPs as Value-added Services under R.A. No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines.

The NTC order stemmed from a request of then National Security Advisor and National Security Council Director, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., which cited ATC resolutions designating NDF, CPP, NPA, and their Central Committee members as terrorists. However, none of the alternative media outfits, religious groups, and NGOs were among the groups designated as terrorists.

One of the alternative media outfits, Bulatlat (run by the Alipato Media Center, Inc.), sought nullification of the NTC order last July 2022. The case is pending before the Quezon City regional trial court. On 11 August 2022, the court granted Bulatlat’s application for preliminary injunction temporarily enjoining the NTC from enforcing its order for access blockage to while the nullification case remains pending.

Protections Invoked by CSOs

The petition for a writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity. Attempts to utilize the Supreme Court’s rules on the Writs of Amparo and Habeas Data for the protection of the life, liberty, and security of human rights defenders and their organizations have been unsuccessful.

Calls for a review of the rules on the writ of amparo were renewed after the August 2020 killing of health worker-activist Zara Alvarez. Alvarez was a member of the human rights organization Karapatan, which sought the issuance of a writ of amparo for itself and its members, who have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and threats.

Officers of Karapatan, women’s group Gabriela, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines are facing perjury charges filed by then National Security Advisor Esperon, based on alleged misrepresentations in their petitions for the issuance of a writ of amparo.

Barriers to Speech and Advocacy

The freedoms of expression and speech are enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Section 4 of Article III states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” Similar provisions can be found in earlier Philippine Constitutions, such as the 1899 Malolos Constitution, 1935 Constitution, and 1973 Constitution.

Protections and Limitations of Law

The Civil Code of the Philippines affords remedies to those whose rights to the freedom of speech and expression have been violated. Particularly, Article 32 provides that any person may be held liable for damages if he or she “directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs” another’s freedom of speech.

On many occasions, the Supreme Court has reiterated that a free exchange of ideas is essential in a democracy such as the Philippines. But the exercise of the freedom of expression is not without restrictions. Permissible restrictions must pass the strict tests set by jurisprudence. One of these tests only allows a restriction if it is shown that the exercise of speech poses a “clear and present danger” to the society.

The Philippines’ 1930 Revised Penal Code (RPC) criminalizes defamatory expression such as libel and slander. Online libel is additionally punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The same elements provided in the RPC are included, but cyber libel carries a higher penalty.

Provisions on inciting to rebellion, insurrection, or sedition have been utilized against critics and dissenters, particularly those deemed by the government as “leftists,” “communists,” “legal fronts,” or “subversives.” Some government officials are seeking to revive the Anti-Subversion Law, which was repealed in 1992.

Regarding disinformation, the RPC penalizes publication of “any false news which may endanger the public order or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State” as well as those who, “by the same means, or by words, utterances or speeches,” shall encourage “disobedience to the law or to the constituted authorities or praise, justify or extol any act punished by law.”

The spread of false information was also punishable under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, enacted in support of the government’s strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 6(f) punished “individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear or confusion.” However, the Act was in force only until June 2020 because the Philippine Congress did not act to extend it.

The deterrence of spoofing is among the objectives of RA No. 11934 or the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration Act, which was signed into law on October 10, 2022. Spoofing is “the act of transmitting misleading or inaccurate information about the source of a phone call or text message, with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” The Act requires all persons to register their SIMs with public telecommunications entities (PTEs); the PTEs would then maintain a SIM Register only to be used for processing, activating or deactivating subscriptions.

The Act also mandates absolute confidentiality of any data or information obtained in the registration. However, full names and addresses of SIM owners may be disclosed upon issuance of a subpoena by a competent authority in particular circumstances listed under Section 9.  Among these circumstances are compliance with any law obligating the PTE to disclose such information in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, and compliance with a court order or legal process upon finding of probable cause.

Access to Information

The meaningful exercise of free speech goes hand in hand with the right of the people to access information. Such right is recognized under Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. The Philippine Constitution further provides in Section 28, Article II for the adoption and implementation of “a policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” Both provisions state that the right to access official records may be subjected to restrictions or conditions set by law. However, the Philippine Congress has yet to pass a law on freedom of information.

In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 2, s. 2016 which mandates the creation of People’s Freedom on Information (FOI) manuals in every government office under the Executive branch.

The Executive Order was supplemented by the 11-page Inventory of Exceptions to Executive Order No. 2, released on 24 November 2016. The exceptions were grouped into nine categories: (1) Information covered by Executive privilege; (2) Privileged information relating to national security, defense or international relations; (3) Information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety; (4) Information deemed confidential for the protection of the privacy of persons and certain individuals; (5) Information, documents or records known by reason of official capacity and are deemed confidential; (6) Prejudicial premature disclosure; (7) Records of proceedings or information from proceedings which, pursuant to law or relevant rules and regulations, are  treated as confidential or privileged; (8) Matters considered confidential under banking and finance laws, and their amendatory laws; and (9) Other exceptions to the right to information under laws, jurisprudence rules and regulations. Note that an agency’s People’s FOI manual may contain their own list of exceptions, such as that of the Philippine National Police. Such an expansive list of exceptions will almost certainly restrict rather than broaden access to information of public matters.

Meanwhile, the government’s counter-insurgency program has affected access to information on the peace process and alleged “subversive” publications, including materials related to the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the government and NDFP in 1998.

In September 2020, at least three state universities removed alleged “subversive” publications from their libraries, purportedly to protect the students and youth from radical and communist ideas. In one case, the removal was in support of the “whole-of-nation” approach adopted by the government in its counter-insurgency program; in other cases, the removal occurred after discussion with or inspection from the police, military, or local anti-terrorism task forces.

In October 2020, a regional office of the Commission on Higher Education reportedly released a memorandum encouraging removal of “subversive materials both in libraries and online platforms” as these could be “used to radicalize the mind.” Subversive materials referred to “literatures, references, publications, resources, and items that contain pervasive ideologies of the Communist-Terrorist Groups.” The memorandum stated that “It is our moral consciousness not to allow our youth to be engrained with peace-detrimental ideologies that could turn them as subversive and become communist-terrorist. It is a public knowledge that these materials are also used in the infiltration and recruitment of students in our respective institutions.” The educational institutions were asked to turn over the materials to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

In addition, from May to June 2021, alternative media groups reported a series of cyber-attacks on their websites. The cyber-attacks were revealed to have originated from an IP address assigned to the Philippine Army based on the initial findings of the Computer Emergency Response Team of the government’s Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Similar cyber-attacks beset news organizations beginning in December 2021. News websites were reportedly targeted by a hacker group for their alleged biased reporting and perceived anti-government stance. The same hacker group also claimed responsibility for attacks on websites of opposition politicians and party-list groups who had been vocal against the government. Individuals linked to the government’s anti-insurgency task force reportedly lauded the hacker group for taking down the website of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)

In the Philippines, the rule on SLAPPs can be found in Administrative Matter No. 09-6-8-SC or the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases. SLAPPs can be raised as a defense by a person involved in the enforcement of environmental laws, the protection of the environment, or the assertion of environmental rights.

In 2018, the Supreme Court was asked to include a SLAPP provision in its A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC (Rule on Violence Against Women and Children). The Court dismissed the petition for certiorari as it was not the proper remedy to invoke the rule-making power of the Supreme Court. It also stated that “the concept of SLAPP is inapplicable to cases of domestic violence against women and children under R.A. No. 9262,” which is not among the laws mentioned in the rules of procedure for environmental cases.

Weaponization of Other Laws to Silence Unpopular Beliefs

No law specifically prohibits individuals and CSOs from criticizing the government or advocating unpopular political causes. Moreover, the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits the detention of any person “solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations.”

However, government officials and other individuals have exploited existing laws and permissible restrictions to suppress criticism and unpopular political beliefs. For example, several Filipinos were arrested, detained, and/or charged for allegedly committing online libel and violating Section 6(f) of the Bayanihan Act for posting criticisms about COVID-19 pandemic strategies and responses of both national and local governments on their social media accounts. As noted above, the Bayanihan Act was in force only until June 2020 because the Philippine Congress did not act to extend it.

National security laws have also been exploited to harass human rights defenders. In February 2018, more than 600 persons, including then United Nations special rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Concerns Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, were listed as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines in an application to proscribe the latter as a terrorist and outlawed organization under the now repealed Human Security Act. In January 2019, the Department of Justice filed an amended petition removing the names of 600 persons in the original list.

Criminal charges such as kidnapping, arson, and murder have also been filed against human rights defenders. Their homes and offices have reportedly been placed under surveillance and/or subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.

In March 2021, nine activists were killed in raids conducted jointly by the Philippine National Police and the Philippine military in Southern Luzon. Authorities claimed that the activists resisted against the service of search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Six others were arrested and are now facing criminal charges before the courts.

The regional police chief in a media interview disclosed that the March 7, 2021 operations were in compliance with Executive Order No. 70. The PNP spokesperson also tagged those killed and arrested as members of the New People’s Army.

Noticing irregularities and abuses in the issuance and implementation of warrants against activists and rights workers, several human rights groups sought the review of the court procedures and rules on warrants. In response, the Supreme Court issued its “Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras in the Execution of Warrants” on June 29, 2021.

Finally, in September 2023, journalist Maria Ressa and news organization Rappler, which had been critical of the government, were acquitted of tax evasion. Ressa and Rappler were charged with tax evasion for an alleged failure to declare taxes in relation to depositary receipts issued to their investors. Four other cases of tax evasion were dismissed sometime in January 2023.

Barriers to International Contact

Although the laws do not impose restrictions on access to the Internet, human rights networks and media groups have reported digital security attacks in recent years.

A civil case for damages was filed against two Internet service providers by alternative media groups in September 2019 after it was discovered that cyber-attacks came through their infrastructure. The media groups later withdrew the case after defendant ISPs committed “to support free press” and improve “(e)ffective mechanisms to combat such attacks”.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

Funds received by non-stock, non-profit organizations are subject to the rules of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, like other corporations and financial institutions. However, the intensified anti-terrorism campaign of the Philippine government has led to abuse of such restrictions to target organizations accused of being communist fronts. For instance, the bank accounts of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) have been frozen for alleged terrorist financing. In August 2022, 16 individuals including members of RMP were indicted for alleged violation of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

Government counter-terrorism agencies have engaged foreign governments such as the European Union in attempts to restrict or impede foreign funding for organizations allegedly linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army. A delegation of government officials even traveled abroad for this purpose.

The President and his officials blocked loans and grants received by government and civil society from countries which voted or co-sponsored the 11 July 2019 Resolution of the United Nations Human Right Council ordering the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippine human rights situation. In an August 2019 Memorandum, the Executive Secretary directed all department secretaries and agency heads to “suspend negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements” with these governments. However, the ban was lifted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On February 5, 2021, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued Note No. 2021-0592 informing accredited diplomatic missions that “all foreign funding intended for Philippine non-government organizations (NGOs), regardless of mode of disbursement, transfer or download of funds, shall be coursed through [DFA] for appropriate clearance.” The DFA reportedly released a set of guidelines on the implementation of the Note sometime March 2021.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Twitter  said that “legit NGOs” will not be affected by the Note, adding that “it is how a responsible government monitors where money comes from and goes to in the face of insurgent and terrorist-secessionist threats. It should encourage funding from the well-meaning to know their generosity is not misdirected to evil.”

Philippine law also prohibits foreign corporations from giving donations to any political party or candidate or for purposes of partisan political activity. CSOs participating in the party-list elections are prohibited from accepting foreign funding. This is one of the grounds for denying or revoking registration/accreditation as a party-list group under Section 6(4) of R.A. No. 7941.

Domestic Funding

Non-stock, non-profit corporations and NGOs may engage in profitable activities incidental to their operations. The Revised Corporation Code (RCC) requires that “any profit which a nonstock corporation may obtain incidental to its operations shall, whenever necessary or proper, be used for the furtherance of the purpose or purposes for which the corporation was organized, subject to the provisions of this Title.”

Accredited CSOs may receive funding from the national and local government. They must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the specific agencies/departments to receive government funds. A Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) certification is sometimes also required. NGOs receiving government funds may be subjected to a post-audit by the Commission on Audit.

Under Section 35 of the Local Government Code, local government units (LGUs) are allowed to enter into joint ventures with organizations for activities such as delivering basic services, capacity-building, and livelihood projects. An LGU may also extend financial assistance for “economic, socially-oriented, environmental, or cultural projects to be implemented within its territorial jurisdiction.”

Government funding of NGO-led projects was at the heart of the 2013 scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund of legislators, in which several Congressmen diverted their funds to non-existing and spurious NGOs managed by Janet Lim-Napoles.

On July 4, 2023, the Philippines adopted its National Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorism Financing and Counter-Proliferation Financing Strategy for 2023-2027 through Executive Order No. 33, series of 2023. One of the priority areas under Strategic Objective 3 on terrorism financing involves the “[continuous assessment of] terrorism financing risks associated with non-profit organizations.” The implementation of this objective is lodged with the Terrorism Financing Sub-Committee headed by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitutional guarantee on freedom of assembly can be found in the same provision as that of the freedoms of speech, of expression, or of the press. It reads, “No law shall be passed abridging… the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The Public Assembly Act of 1985 provides guidelines to “ensure the free exercise of such right without prejudice to the rights of others to life, liberty and equal protection of the law.” This Act explicitly prohibits any obstruction, impediment, disruption or denial of the right to peaceful assembly. It should be clear that this law only regulates the place and time of a public assembly.

Pickets, strikes and other concerted actions arising from labor disputes are governed by the Labor Code of the Philippines.

  • Applicable Procedures and Requirements

A written permit from the local government unit is required for a public assembly held in a public place. A public place may be “any highway, boulevard, avenue, road, street, bridge or other thoroughfare, park, plaza, square, and/or any open space of public ownership where the people are allowed access.”

The written application should be filed with the office of the mayor which has jurisdiction over the place where the assembly will be held, at least five working days before the scheduled assembly. It should contain the following: names of the leaders or organizers; the purpose of such public assembly; the date, time and duration thereof, and the place or streets to be used for the intended activity; the probable number of persons participating, the transport and the public address systems to be used.

The duties and responsibilities of organizers under Section 8 must be incorporated in the application. Among these is to “take positive steps that demonstrators do not molest any person or do any act unduly interfering with the rights of other persons not participating in the public assembly.”

Failure to secure a prior written permit whenever necessary or the holding of a public assembly in a place other than what was approved may result in the imprisonment of any leader or organizer for one month and one day to six months.

Note that the law states that it is the duty of the mayor to grant or issue a permit. The only reason for non-issuance of a permit is if there is “clear and convincing evidence that the public assembly will create a clear and present danger to public order, public safety, public convenience, public morals or public health.” The applicant should be afforded due process prior to the denial of their application based on the alleged presence of “an imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil.”

The permit is deemed granted if the mayor or his representative fails to act on the application within two working days from its filing. The decision should be communicated to the applicant within 24 hours. Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP No.) 880 penalizes local government officials who arbitrarily and unjustifiably deny or modify a permit or refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of the application.

No prior permit is required for assemblies held in a designated or established freedom park. But organizers must send written notice to the office of the mayor. In 2006, the Department of Interior and Local Government issued guidelines for the establishment or designation of freedom parks. The issuance came after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 15 of the Public Assembly Act which mandates every city and municipality to “establish or designate at least one suitable freedom park or mall…which, as far as practicable, shall be centrally located within the poblacion where demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time without the need of any prior permit.”

Meanwhile, the consent of the owner or legal possessor is required when an assembly is held on private property. A public assembly held on the campus of a government-owned and operated educational institution is subject to the institution’s own rules and regulations.

The Public Assembly Act lists the application requirements for the issuance of a permit and the actions to be taken by the mayor or any official acting on his behalf.

  • Legal Barriers to Freedom of Assembly

Nothing in the Public Assembly Act allows the government to regulate expressions or speeches uttered during an assembly. However, authorities have employed Revised Penal Code provisions (e.g. inciting to sedition and inciting to rebellion or insurrection) and other special laws to subsequently punish persons for their utterances.

The Revised Penal Code also punishes Illegal Assemblies. Under Article 146, the following assemblies are declared illegal:

  • Any meeting attended by armed persons for the purpose of committing any of the crimes punishable under the Code, and
  • Any meeting in which the audience, whether armed or not, is incited to the commission of the crime of treason, rebellion or insurrection, sedition or assault upon a person in authority or his agents.

Meanwhile, the Labor Code of the Philippines imposes restrictions on employees of specific sectors (such as those in Civil Service) holding pickets and strikes under the Labor Code. For example, those in the civil service can hold protests as long as they do not disrupt public services.

Note that the freedom of assembly has been severely restricted during the implementation of the COVID-19 pandemic. It became apparent as early as the proclamation of a state of public health emergency on 8 March 2020 that the government was treating the pandemic as a national security issue.  Authorities have unreasonably and liberally applied provisions of the B.P. 880, the Bayanihan Act and the Mandatory Reporting Act to crackdown on dissent during the implementation of the pandemic response. Those who try to assert their constitutional rights to expression and assembly are also met with charges for Resistance and Disobedience to A Person in Authority under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code.

For example, the mere carrying of placards calling for better government responses to the health crisis has been met with a forceful law enforcement response. Some individuals who held COVID-19 relief operations and carried such placards were arrested and detained by law enforcement, and are facing criminal charges before the prosecution office or the courts.

Section 6(h) of the Bayanihan Act was also cited in complaints filed against groups who allegedly held illegal assemblies during COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This section stated that “impeding access to roads, streets and bridges; putting-up prohibited encroachments or obstacles; and maintenance of illegal constructions in public places that have been ordered to be removed.” However, the Act lasted only until from March to June 2020 because the Philippine Congress did not act to extend it.

Section 9(e) of the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act has been cited in reference to individuals or groups allegedly violating the rules on “social distancing” and mass gatherings. The said provision refers to “non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health events of public concern.” It would appear that authorities deem the failure to observe social distancing as “non-cooperation.”

  • Policing/Enforcement

Law enforcement should not interfere with the conduct of a public assembly. Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP No.) 880 provides guidelines that law enforcement agencies shall observe in Section 10, such as being in uniform and the non-use of firearms.

The dispersal of public assemblies must comply with the parameters set in Sections 11 (public assembly with permit) and 12 (public assembly without permit) of the Public Assembly Act. Section 13 expressly states that participants are not criminally liable for the lack of a permit. Only organizers and leaders are liable and can be punished “by imprisonment of one month and one day to six months.”

The Public Assembly Act requires that a law enforcement contingent should be at least 100 meters away from the place of assembly. They are also required to observe “maximum tolerance” or “the highest degree of restraint that the military, police and other peacekeeping authorities shall observe during a public assembly or in the dispersal of the same.” The Act also penalizes law enforcement officers who unnecessarily use firearms in dispersing any public assembly.

However, law enforcement has used unnecessary force and inhumane methods to stop rallies and peoples’ assemblies in several instances. In 2005, the Philippine National Police violently dispersed rallies against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The police justified the use of force as being in consonance with the Calibrated Preemptive Response policy set by the executive (Malacañang). Several groups later questioned the legality of the Calibrated Preemptive Response policy before the Supreme Court. In April 2006, the Supreme Court declared the policy as null and void in Bayan v. Ermita.

Meanwhile, any person who carries a deadly or offensive weapon or device or maliciously burns any object in the streets or thoroughfares within one hundred (100) meters from a public assembly or on the occasion thereof will be penalized.

On 11 May 2022, the then mayor of the City of Manila issued a memorandum ordering the Manila Police District and barangay (village) officials to “strictly enforce the provisions” of BP No. 880. The mayor also ordered the Bureau of Permits to “act promptly and expeditiously on applications for permit in accordance with BP 880.” The memorandum was issued amid protest actions held in Manila — where the main office of the Commission on Elections is located — against alleged electoral fraud in the May 9, 2022 national and local elections.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports
Session 41 – November 2022
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Most recent Special Procedures’ reports on the Philippines

Council on Foundations Country Notes
U.S. State Department
2022 Human Rights Report: Philippines
Fragile States Index Reports
Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports
Philippines: Special Issues (February 6, 2020)
International Commission of Jurists
Philippines Archives
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

General News

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SIM card registration law to take effect before end of 2022 (November 2022)
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Philippines invites special rapporteur  to visit in 2023 (November 2022)
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Court of Appeals denies Maria Ressa’s appeal in cyber libel case (October 2022)
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Nuns among 16 charged for link to ‘terrorism’ financing of CPP, NPA (August 2022)
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Conviction of Ressa for cyberlibel upheld (July 2022)
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SEC affirms revocation of Rappler’s certificate of incorporation (June 2022)
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‘Tinang 83’ cleared of malicious mischief, illegal assembly charges (June 2022)
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The Supreme Court has upheld with finality most of the anti-terror law, the Court announced. This means that the feared clauses of the law, such as arrest and detention without warrant and designation through an arbitrary process of the executive anti-terror council, will be applied to suspected terrorists. Critics of the law have said this will be weaponized to target the political opposition, activists, and even ordinary dissenters.

Duterte vetoes SIM card and social media registration bill (April 2022)
Citing concerns about free speech and data privacy, President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed a bill that would have required individuals to register their ownership of a SIM card and use their real names when creating social media accounts. Senator Grace Poe, who had sponsored the bill as the Senate committee on public services chairperson, had said the measure was intended to “eradicate mobile phone, internet or electronic communication-aided criminal activities” and create a “safer and more secure” mobile-use and cyber space in the country. See also reports from and on this development.

Solicitor General calls on Supreme Court to void fact-check deal (April 2022)
Solicitor General Jose Calida went to the Supreme Court seeking to void Rappler’s fact-checking agreement with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), saying that fact checks violate free speech. “Such power granted by Comelec in favor of Rappler clearly constitutes prior restraint on freedom of speech and of expression,” said the press release from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Mandatory SIM card registration puts privacy at risk (April 2022)
The mandatory registration of SIM cards may just put the security and privacy of citizens at risk, a cybersecurity initiative said, as it claimed there is no proof that compulsory enrollment of personal information with telecommunications firms will curb crimes. This comes days after Congress ratified the proposed SIM card Registration Act which, if passed, will compel citizens to provide their personal information to public telecommunications entities (PTEs) before buying SIM cards in a move meant to curb terrorism, text scams, bank fraud and anonymous online defamation, among others.

ICC prosecutor vows to ‘uncover truth, ensure accountability’ in drug war probe (October 2021)
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan on Thursday promised to conduct an “independent and impartial” investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, including drug war killings, as it seeks to “uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability.” “We aim to bring justice to the victims and affected communities, and count on the support and cooperation of States Parties, civil society and other partners,” Khan said in a statement.

Why is PH ranking low in rule of law global index? (October 2021)
The Philippines’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the major reasons why the country further fell in a global index on the rule of law, the director of the World Justice Project said on Monday. The Philippines last week placed 102nd out of 139 countries in the WJP Rule of Law Index 2021, down from 91st place in 2020. The country also ranked 13th out of 15 countries in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, only ahead of Myanmar and Cambodia.

Rights group calls for review on cases with search warrants (July 2021)
A human rights group has called on the Supreme Court to review the cases of political prisoners who were served search warrants from Manila and Quezon City judges who were recently stripped of the authority for such issuances. “Kapatid hails the [Supreme Court’s] resolution limiting the power of judges to issue search warrants and prohibiting the multiple application for search warrants,” Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, a support group for families of prisoners, said in a news release.

Supreme Court condemns lawyer killings and vows changes (March 2021)
The Supreme Court en banc on March 23 issued a statement condemning the killings of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors, and vowed to look into institutional changes to better protect them. The 15 justices agreed on making the unprecedented move of issuing a collective public statement amid mounting pressure from lawyers demanding decisive action from the Supreme Court.

UN urges probe into killing of Philippine activists (March 2021)
The United Nations human rights office has condemned the killing of nine activists by Philippine police and urged the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the incident, as his national security adviser confirmed a “shoot-on-sight” order against the activists, who are alleged to be communist rebels.

ICC finds basis for crimes against humanity in Duterte drug war (December 2020)
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is expected to decide by the first half of 2021 whether to seek a formal investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. But as early as now, the chief prosecutor has already found “reasonable basis to believe” that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.

Rights Defenders, Journalists Challenge Anti-Terrorism Act (July 2020)
A group of veteran journalists, lawmakers, human rights defenders and Constitution framers have filed a petition against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 at the Supreme Court, the latest to challenge the measure that they described as a “clear and imminent danger to free speech.” The petition, first filed through email on Wednesday, also sought a plea for a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the law.