International Criminology World

World : Asia : Philippines

The history of the Philippines may be divided into four distinct phases: the pre-Spanish period (before 1521); the Spanish period (1521-1898); the American period (1898-1946); and the years since independence (1946-present).

The first people in the Philippines, the Negritos, are believed to have come to the islands 30,000 years ago from Borneo and Sumatra, making their way across then-existing land bridges. Subsequently, people of Malay stock came from the south in successive waves, the earliest by land bridges and later in boats called barangays. The Malays settled in scattered communities, also called barangays, which were ruled by chieftains known as datus. Chinese merchants and traders arrived and settled in the ninth century A.D. In the 14th century, Arabs arrived, introducing Islam in the south and extending some influence even into Luzon. The Malays, however, remained the dominant group until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippines for Spain in 1521, and for the next 377 years, the islands were under Spanish rule. This period was the era of conversion to Roman Catholicism. A Spanish colonial social system was developed, complete with a strong centralized government and considerable clerical influence. The Filipinos were restive under the Spanish, and this long period was marked by numerous uprisings. The most important of these began in 1896 under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo and continued until the Americans defeated the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

Following Admiral Dewey's defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, the United States occupied the Philippines. Spain ceded the islands to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898) that ended the war. A war of resistance against U.S. rule, led by Revolutionary President Aguinaldo, broke out in 1899. Although Americans have historically used the term "the Philippine Insurrection," Filipinos and an increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), and in 1999 the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term. In 1901, Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States, and resistance gradually died out. U.S. administration of the Philippines was always declared to be temporary and aimed to develop institutions that would permit and encourage the eventual establishment of a free and democratic government. Therefore, U.S. officials concentrated on the creation of such practical supports for democratic government as public education and a sound legal system. The first legislative assembly was elected in 1907. A bicameral legislature, largely under Philippine control, was established. A civil service was formed and was gradually taken over by the Filipinos, who had effectively gained control by the end of World War I. The Catholic Church was disestablished, and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed. In 1935, under the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel Quezon was elected president of the new government, which was designed to prepare the country for independence after a 10-year transition period. World War II intervened, however, and in May 1942, Corregidor, the last American/Filipino stronghold, fell. U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, placing the islands under Japanese control. The war to regain the Philippines began when Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944. Filipinos and Americans fought together until the Japanese surrender in September 1945. Much of Manila was destroyed during the final months of the fighting, and an estimated 1 million Filipinos lost their lives in the war. As a result of the Japanese occupation, the guerrilla warfare that followed, and the battles leading to liberation, the country suffered great damage and a complete organizational breakdown. Despite the shaken state of the country, the United States and the Philippines decided to move forward with plans for independence. On July 4, 1946, the Philippine Islands became the independent Republic of the Philippines, in accordance with the terms of the Tydings- McDuffie Act. In 1962, the official Independence Day was changed from July 4 to June 12, commemorating the date independence from Spain was declared by General Aguinaldo in 1898.

The early years of independence were dominated by U.S.-assisted postwar reconstruction. A Communist-inspired Huk Rebellion (1945-53) complicated recovery efforts before its successful suppression under the leadership of President Ramon Magsaysay. The succeeding administrations of Presidents Carlos P. Garcia (1957-61) and Diosdado Macapagal (1961-65) sought to expand Philippine ties to its Asian neighbors, implement domestic reform programs, and develop and diversify the economy. In 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-86) declared martial law, citing growing lawlessness and open rebellion by the Communist rebels as his justification. Marcos governed from 1973 until mid-1981 in accordance with the transitory provisions of a new constitution that replaced the commonwealth constitution of 1935. He suppressed democratic institutions and restricted civil liberties during the martial law period, ruling largely by decree and popular referenda. The government began a process of political normalization during 1978-81, culminating in the reelection of President Marcos to a 6-year term that would have ended in 1987. The Marcos government's respect for human rights remained low despite the end of martial law on January 17, 1981. His government retained its wide arrest and detention powers. Corruption and favoritism contributed to a serious decline in economic growth and development under Marcos. The assassination of opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino upon his return to the Philippines in 1983, after a long period of exile, coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and set in motion a succession of events that culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). The election was marred by widespread electoral fraud on the part of Marcos and his supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation led by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), denounced the official results. Marcos was forced to flee the Philippines in the face of a peaceful civilian-military uprising that ousted him and installed Corazon Aquino as president on February 25, 1986. Under Aquino's presidency progress was made in revitalizing democratic institutions and respect for civil liberties. However, the administration was also viewed by many as weak and fractious, and a return to full political stability and economic development was hampered by several attempted coups staged by disaffected members of the Philippine military. Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992. Early in his administration, Ramos declared "national reconciliation" his highest priority. He legalized the Communist Party and created the National Unification Commission (NUC) to lay the groundwork for talks with Communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and military rebels. In June 1994, President Ramos signed into law a general conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, as well as Philippine military and police personnel accused of crimes committed while fighting the insurgents. In October 1995, the government signed an agreement bringing the military insurgency to an end. A peace agreement with one major Muslim insurgent group was signed in 1996. Joseph Ejercito Estrada's election as President in May 1998, marked the Philippines' third democratic succession since the ouster of Marcos. Estrada was elected with overwhelming mass support on a platform promising poverty alleviation and an anti-crime crackdown. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Estrada's Vice President, assumed the Presidency in January 2001 after widespread demonstrations that followed the breakdown of Estrada's impeachment trial on corruption charges. On January 17, then-President Joseph Estrada's impeachment trial in the Senate was preempted after a majority of senators voted to block the introduction of certain items of evidence. Large, peaceful demonstrations in the capital over the next 3 days ended on January 20, when Estrada resigned and Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as President. In April Estrada was taken into custody charged with among other things economic plunder; he remained in custody at year's end. In May midterm national elections were held for the national legislature, provincial governors, and local officials. Approximately 100 persons were killed in election-related violence. A large, well funded Communist insurgency operates in various regions of the country. A large, armed Muslim separatist group operates mainly in parts of the south. A number of armed clashes took place during the year; several involved human rights abuses by insurgent, separatist, and government forces. Peace negotiations between the Government and both groups resumed after Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency. Talks with the Communist insurgents were suspended following the assassination of a congressman in June, and remained suspended at year's end. In August a new cease-fire agreement between the Government and the Muslim separatist group was signed; despite intermittent clashes, the agreement remained in effect at year's end.


The Philippine Communist insurgency of the 1990s was rooted in the nation's history of peasant rebellion. Rural revolts-- isolated and unsuccessful--were common during the early part of the twentieth century and before. Discontent among peasants over land tenancy and growing population pressures inspired increasing violence in the 1930s, especially in Central Luzon where isolated peasant rebellions gave way to better organized, sometimes revolutionary movements. After World War II, tensions between peasants and the government-backed landlords grew, leading to the Huk rebellion. Formerly anti-Japanese guerrillas, the Huk fighters were associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (Partido Kommunista ng Pilipinas--PKP), which had been established in 1930. The rebellion waned during the early 1950s, but Huk supporters and the remnants of the Huk army later played important roles in the founding of the NPA in the late 1960s. The CPP guerrilla movement, the NPA, was a successor to the PKP-Huk actions. Jose Maria Sison and a handful of young revolutionaries founded the CPP--Marxist Leninist, now usually referred to as the CPP, in Central Luzon on December 26, 1968. It soon became the core Communist political organization, leaving just a small remnant of the original PKP. The NPA was formed the following March with sixty former Huk fighters. The new party has been a result of an internal schism in the parent PKP, created by ideological differences and by personal animosity between Sison and PKP leaders. The CPP pursued a Maoist-inspired program unlike the Soviet-sponsored PKP. The PKP eventually renounced armed insurrection and, in 1990, was an inconsequential, quasi-legal political party with about 5,000 members. The outlawed CPP, meanwhile, aggressively pursued its guerrilla war, and in 1990 fielded some 18,000 to 23,000 full-time insurgents.

The Philippines has had a long history of Moro insurgent movements dating back to Spanish rule. Resistance to colonization was especially strong among the Muslim population of southwestern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. With pride in their cultural heritage and a strong desire for independence, Moros fought Christian and foreign domination. Spanish control over the Moros was never complete, and the Muslim struggle carried over into the United States colonial era. The Moros earned a reputation as fierce fighters in combat against United States troops. Following independence, Filipino Muslims continued to resist Manila's rule, leading to widespread conflict in the 1970s. More immediate causes of insurgency rose out of the increasing lawlessness in the southern Philippines during the late 1960s, when violence associated with political disputes, personal feuds, and armed gangs proliferated. In this climate of civil turmoil, longstanding tensions between Moro and Christian communities escalated. Already in competition over land, economic resources, and political power, the Moros became increasingly alarmed by the immigration of Christians from the north who were making Moros a minority in what they felt was their own land. By mid-1972, partisan political violence, generally divided along religious lines, gripped all of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. After martial law was declared in September 1972 and all civilians were ordered to surrender their guns, spontaneous rebellions arose among Moros, who traditionally had equated the right to carry arms with their religious heritage and were suspicious of the government's intentions toward them. In its initial phases, the rebellion was a series of isolated uprisings that rapidly spread in scope and size. But one group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari, managed to bring most partisan Moro forces into the loosely unified MNLF framework. Fighting for an independent Moro nation, the MNLF received support from Muslim backers in Libya and Malaysia. When the conflict reached its peak in 1973-75, the military arm of the MNLF, the Bangsa Moro Army, was able to field some 30,000 armed fighters. The military responded by deploying 70 to 80 percent of its combat forces against the Moros. Destruction and casualties, both military and civilian, were heavy; an estimated 50,000 people were killed. The government also employed a variety of nonmilitary tactics, announced economic aid programs and political concessions, and encouraged factionalism and defections in the Muslim ranks by offering incentives such as amnesty and land. The government's programs, and a sharp decrease in the flow of arms from Malaysia, set back the Moro movement. In 1976 the conflict began to wane. Talks between the government and the Moros began in late 1976 under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a union of Muslim nations to which the Moros looked for support. The talks led to an agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF signed in Tripoli that year providing for Moro autonomy in the southern Philippines and for a cease-fire. After a lull in the fighting, the truce broke down in 1977 amid Moro charges that the government's automony plan allowed only token self-rule. The Moro rebellion never regained its former vigor. Muslim factionalism was a major factor in the movement's decline. Differing goals, traditional tribal rivalries, and competition among Moro leaders for control of the movement produced a threeway split in the MNLF during the late 1970s. The first break occurred in 1977 when Hashim Salamat, supported by ethnic Maguindanaos from Mindanao, formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which advocated a more moderate and conciliatory approach toward the government. Misuari's larger and more militant MNLF was further weakened during that period when rival leaders formed the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization, drawing many Mindanao Maranaos away from the MNLF, dominated by Misuari's Sulu-based Tausug tribe. The Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization eventually collapsed, giving way to the Moro National Liberation Front Reformist Movement. Moro factionalism, compounded by declining foreign support and general war weariness, hurt the Muslim movement both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Moro fighting strength declined to about 15,000 by 1983, and Muslim and government forces only occasionally clashed during Marcos's last years in office.

In keeping with her campaign pledge of national reconciliation, Aquino initiated talks with the MNLF--the largest of the three major factions--in 1986 to resolve the conflict with Muslim separatists. Discussions produced a cease-fire in September, followed by further talks under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In January 1987, the MNLF signed an agreement relinquishing its goal of independence for Muslim regions and accepting the government's offer of autonomy. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the next largest faction, refused to accept the accord and initiated a brief offensive that ended in a truce later that month. Talks between the government and the MNLF over the proposed autonomous region continued sporadically throughout 1987 but eventually deadlocked. Following the government's successful diplomatic efforts to block the MNLF's latest bid for Organization of the Islamic Conference membership, the MNLF officially resumed its armed insurrection in February 1988, but little fighting resulted. The government, meanwhile, pressed ahead with plans for Muslim autonomy without the MNLF's cooperation. Article 10 of the 1987 constitution mandates that the new congress establish an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In the November 1989 plebiscite, only two Mindanao provinces--Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur--and two in the Sulu Archipelago--Sulu and Tawitawi-- opted to accept the government's autonomy measure. The fragmented four-province Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, with its own governor and unicameral legislature, was officially inaugurated on November 6, 1990.

Armed activity by the Moros continued at a relatively low level through the late 1980s, with sporadic clashes between government and Muslim forces. The military still based army and marine battalions in Moro areas to maintain order in 1990, but far fewer units than it had in the 1970s. (Four battalions were on Jolo Island, a Moro stronghold, down from twenty-four at the rebellion's height.) Most of the endemic violence in Muslim areas was directed at rival clans, not at the military's peacekeeping forces. The Moro movement remained divided along tribal lines in three major factions. Misuari's MNLF forces in the Sulu Archipelago totaled 15,000, and the Mindanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the MNLF-Reformist Movement fielded around 2,900 and 900 troops, respectively. Weakened by these divisions, Muslim infighting, and the formation of an autonomous region, the Moro armies did not appear to be an imminent threat. Still, the MNLF--which did not recognize the autonomous region--showed no sign of surrendering, and it promised to remain a potent military and political force in the southern Philippines.

The New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the main Communist insurgent faction, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim separatist group, have both committed serious human rights abuses, including killings, kidnappings, torture, and detentions. The NPA's use of children as armed combatants and noncombatants has continued to increase. The Government has repatriated most noncombatants displaced during 2000 as a result of fighting between the AFP and the MILF. The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which operates in southwestern Mindanao, committed numerous kidnapings and killings, including summary beheadings of hostages and local residents.


The sources of procedural criminal law were the constitution, the revised penal code of 1930, the New Rules of Court of 1964, special laws, and certain presidential orders and letters of instruction. These governed the pleading, practice, and procedure of all courts as well as admission to the practice of law. All had the force and effect of law.

The rights of the accused under Philippine law are guaranteed under Article 3 of the 1987 constitution and include the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to enjoy due process under the law, and the right to a speedy, public trial. Those accused must be informed of the charges against them and must be given access to competent, independent counsel, and the opportunity to post bail, except in instances where there is strong evidence that the crime could result in the maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Habeas corpus protection is extended to all except in cases of invasion or rebellion. During a trial, the accused are entitled to be present at every proceeding, to compel witnesses, to testify and cross-examine them and to testify or be exempt as a witness. Finally, all are guaranteed freedom from double jeopardy and, if convicted, the right to appeal.

Criminal action can be initiated either by a complaint--a sworn statement by the offended party, a witness, or a police officer--or by "information." Information consists of a written accusation filed with the court by a prosecutor, known as a fiscal at the provincial levels of government and below. No information can be filed unless investigation by a judge, fiscal, or state prosecutor establishes a prima facie case. Warrant for arrest is issued by a judge. Warrantless arrest by a police officer can be made legally only under extraordinary circumstances. Aquino immediately discontinued Marcos-era practices of presidentially ordered searches and arrests without judicial process and prolonged "preventative detention actions."

Trial procedure consists of arraignment, trial, and the court's judgment and sentencing. The accused must be arraigned in the court where the complaint or information is filed. A defendant must be present to plead to the charge, except in certain minor cases where a lawyer can appear for him or her. All offenses are bailable, save the most serious cases when strong evidence of guilt exists. If a defendant has no lawyer, the court is required to supply one. Prosecution is carried out by the state prosecutor or provincial fiscal, who exercises broad discretion in screening cases and affixing charges. No jury is employed; the judge determines all questions of law and fact and passes sentence. A written sentence must be read to the court. Afterward, either party may appeal.


Despite some improvement in law and order, crime remained a major problem through the end of the 1980s. Police attributed the country's chronic crime problems to a variety of social and cultural factors. Widespread poverty and rapid population growth were frequently cited. Population pressures and a shortage of land and jobs in rural areas had produced a steady internal migration to the cities. This urbanization of a traditionally agrarian society was commonly mentioned as cause for increased crime rates. In particular, police pointed to the rapid growth of urban slum and squatter areas; more than 25 percent of the population of Metro-Manila were thought to be squatters in the late 1980s. Widespread possession of firearms--including automatic rifles--was another factor contributing to crime. Undisciplined private armies, usually maintained by local politicians and wealthy families, and numerous organized crime gangs were the biggest violators of firearms laws. The Communist and Muslim insurgencies compounded the problem of proliferating guns and violence. Piracy and smuggling also were thriving criminal industries, especially in the southern portions of the archipelago.

According to the police, the incidence of serious crime escalated through the early 1980s, from approximately 250 crimes per 100,000 population in 1979, to a sustained level of around 310 during 1984 through 1987, then declined in 1988 and 1989. In 1988 the crime rate dipped below 300 crimes per 100,000 people, then fell dramatically in 1989 to 251 crimes per 100,000 citizens. Because of differing reporting practices and degrees of coverage, it was difficult to compare Philippine crime rates to those of other countries.

Government officials attributed the decrease in crime to improved police work, but economic conditions appeared to be as important. The deterioration in law and order during the early and mid-1980s accompanied a steadily worsening economy, whereas the improvement in the late 1980s paralleled renewed economic growth under Aquino. Not surprisingly, crime rates were highest in major urban areas, where unemployment was the highest. Regionally, peninsular southern Luzon, the western Visayan islands, and portions of Mindanao--impoverished rural areas where insurgents were active--had the most criminal activity in the mid-1980s.

Drug use and trafficking were growing problems during the 1980s, particularly in marijuana. Cultivation was geographically widespread, but the mountainous portions of northern Luzon and the central Visayas were the major marijuana-growing centers. During the late 1980s, another drug, methamphetamine, was fast becoming a narcotics problem. Known locally as shabu, it had generally been smuggled into the country, but domestic production expanded sharply in 1989 to meet growing demand. Coca cultivation was not significant in 1989, and there was no evidence of opium poppy cultivation or heroin manufacture.

The Philippines remained a center of drug trafficking and transshipment. Cannabis growers exported their product to Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and the United States, and Philippine waters were routinely used by other smugglers as a transshipment point for Southeast Asian marijuana bound for North America. Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, too, was used for transhipment of heroin and marijuana destined for Guam, Australia, Europe, and the United States. Production and trafficking of illegal drugs was accomplished by a variety of domestic and foreign criminal groups, notably Australian, American, and ethnic Chinese Filipinos. Communist insurgents also were involved in marijuana cultivation.

Corruption remained a serious problem in the early 1990s, and its elimination was one of the government's most vexing challenges. Despite persistent efforts, petty graft was commonplace, and high-level corruption scandals periodically rocked the government. As part of its continuing efforts to weed out official malfeasance, the government maintained a special anticorruption court, known as the Sandiganbayan.

Other government initiatives targeted corruption, crime, and terrorism. Peace and Order Councils at the national, regional, and provincial level were rejuvenated under Aquino. By regularly bringing together responsible government, military, and community leaders, the government hoped to improve the effectiveness of its anticrime and counterinsurgency programs. AFP and police commanders also attempted to address the problems of internal corruption and abuse, which, they admitted, undermined public confidence in, and cooperation with, the security forces. Top military leaders routinely publicized retraining programs, the discharge and demotion of scalawags in the ranks, and other measures designed to improve discipline. The military also mounted a counternarcotics effort, spearheaded by the constabulary's Narcotics Command. Government agents more than doubled arrests during 1989 and eradicated millions of marijuana plants, but they still found it difficult to keep pace with the growing drug trade.

The crime rate in the Philippines is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for the Philippines. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for five of the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and motor vehicle theft. The Philippines does not report data for burglary, and theft data do not exclude burglary and are thus not comparable to FBI data on larceny. Lacking complete data on property crimes, the combined total of these offenses constituting the Index used for trend calculation purposes cannot be made. The Philippines will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate) with the data available. According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 7.85 for the Philippines, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 4.21 for the Philippines, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 8.06 for the Philippines, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 15.10 for the Philippines, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 3.26 for the Philippines, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA.


Between 1997 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 14.11 to 7.85, an decrease of 44.4%. The rate for rape was not given for 1997. The rate of robbery increased from 7.94 to 8.06, an increase of 1.5%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 17.37 to 15.10 per 100,000, an decrease of 13.1%. Data were not given on auto thefts for 1997.


The Philippine legal system was a hybrid, reflecting the country's cultural and colonial history. The system combined elements of Roman civil law from Spain, Anglo-American common law introduced by the United States, and the customary systems used by minorities. The influence of Spanish law was slowly fading but was clearly evident in private law, including family relations, property matters, and contracts. The influence of American law was most visible in constitutional and corporate law, and taxation and banking. Evidentiary rules also were adopted from the American system. In the Muslim areas of the south, Islamic law was employed.

Philippine law dates to the nation's independence from Spain at the end of the nineteenth century. Statutes were enacted by the colonial Philippine legislature (1900-35), the commonwealth legislature (1935-46), and by the republic, beginning July 4, 1946. Many modern laws were patterned after the United States, and United States case law was cited and given persuasive effect in Philippine courts. As of the mid-1980s, there were twenty-six codes in effect. These included the 1930 revised penal code, in effect since January 1, 1932, and the civil code, which replaced the Spanish civil code on July 1, 1950. In addition, numerous presidential decrees issued during and after the martial law period (1972-81) had the effect of law. During this era, President Marcos issued more than 2,000 decrees. Although some were rescinded by Aquino during her first year in office. Rule by presidential decree ended in February 1987 with the ratification of the constitution.

Substantive criminal law was embodied in the revised penal code, as amended, and based chiefly on the Spanish penal code of 1870, which took effect in 1887. The penal code set forth the basic principles affecting criminal liability, established a system of penalties, and defined classes of crimes. It also provided for aggravating and mitigating circumstances, stating, for instance, that age, physical defect, or acting under "powerful impulse causing passion or obfuscation" can affect criminal liability. Insanity or acting under irresistible force or uncontrollable fear were regarded by law as exempting circumstances. Under the code, penalties were classified as capital (requiring a death sentence), afflictive (six years to life imprisonment), correctional (one month to six years), and light (up to thirty days). These correspond to the classification of crimes as grave felonies, punishable by capital or afflictive penalties; less grave felonies, punishable by correctional penalties; and light felonies, punishable by light penalties. The 1987 constitution, however, outlaws the death penalty unless provided for by subsequent legislation.


The Department of National Defense (DND) directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has authority over the civilian Philippine National Police (PNP). The AFP, which has primary responsibility for counterinsurgency operations, also is involved in traditional law enforcement efforts, including the pursuit of kidnapers, whose actions are a chronic criminal problem. Some members of the security forces, including police, soldiers, and local civilian militias, have committed human rights abuses.

When Aquino assumed office in February 1986, she immediately began dismantling repressive restrictions on civil and public liberties. Political prisoners, including top Communist leaders, were released. Restrictions on the media's ability to report freely and to criticize the nation's leaders were removed. Aquino also allowed far greater freedom of political expression. Although she enjoyed broad public support, Aquino inherited a variety of internal security threats from her predecessor. Chief among them was the insurgency inspired by the CPP and its military arm, the NPA. After modest growth during the first two years of Aquino's tenure, insurgent strength waned in the late 1980s. Although Communist guerrillas remained active throughout most of the country, internal dissension and improved AFP tactics had reduced their threat. Meanwhile, Muslim insurgents in the south threatened to resume their armed struggle for independence or autonomy. A combination of political maneuvering within the government, continued Moro factionalism, and decreased foreign support, however, reduced prospects for open rebellion. By 1990 the Muslims, although locally active and still a potent military force, showed little inclination to resume full-scale conflict. Repeated military rebellions and coup attempts constituted the most pressing challenge to Aquino's authority. The highly politicized military generally was seen as another legacy of the Marcos regime. Military dissidents exploited widely shared grievances in order to recruit supporters for their rebellions. These grievances were at the root of military restiveness. Many officers complained that the Aquino government was insensitive to the military's concerns and that her administration was corrupt and unable to lead. Aquino also faced a serious crime problem within the Philippines. A variety of social and cultural factors contributed to the problem. Widespread poverty and the growing urbanization of the nation's traditionally rural society often were cited as contributors. The crime rate generally paralleled the state of the economy, dramatically worsening during the mid-1980s before improving at decade's end. Violence, long common in Philippine society, was aggravated by insurgency and the prevalence of highpowered firearms. Drugs were a modest but growing problem, and CPP-inspired terrorism against Philippine officials, and sometimes Americans, escalated in the late-1980s. To deal with criminal activity, the government focused on improving the performance of the police and the courts. Aquino took several steps to remedy widespread skepticism about the fairness and effectiveness of the judicial system. She ended presidential political interference in judicial affairs and took steps to speed the sluggish legal process and reduce the logjam of court cases. Efforts to improve Integrated National Police discipline and professionalism continued, with special attention given to the perception that police were excessively corrupt and abusive.

The period following the overthrow of the Marcos regime brought important changes to the Philippines' intelligence and security structure. During the martial law era (1972-81), the volume and scope of government intelligence activity had greatly expanded. The preeminent intelligence agency was the National Intelligence and Security Authority, headed by General Fabian Ver, a close Marcos confidant and chief of staff of the Philippine armed forces. By the end of Marcos's tenure, the National Intelligence and Security Authority and the rest of the country's intelligence apparatus were heavily focused on tracking the president's political opponents. Security agents were suspected of numerous human rights abuses.

The revamp of the nation's intelligence system commenced with Aquino's rise to power. The new government significantly curtailed intelligence operations and purged many of General Ver's operatives. Drafters of the 1987 constitution installed legal safeguards against the kind of abuses committed by the Marcos intelligence and security apparatus. The National Intelligence and Security Authority, tainted by its close association with the deposed president, was renamed the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and refocused its efforts away from political opposition leaders to internal security threats, especially the Communist insurgency. Notable intelligence successes against the Communist rebels during the late 1980s were an apparent result of this reorientation. Government operatives repeatedly captured top CPP and NPA cadres, prompting devastating purges within the insurgent ranks as guerrillas attempted to ferret out the sources of intelligence penetrations. In 1990 Aquino issued an executive order authorizing her national security adviser to oversee the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and other elements of the intelligence community. The adviser was empowered to audit the agencies and was charged with ensuring that they were responsive to the needs of the president and the National Security Council. The secretaries of national defense and justice, whose departments performed intelligence functions, were directed to work with the national security adviser to fulfill the president's mandate.

The Department of Justice's principal intelligence-gathering organ, the National Bureau of Investigation, was formed in 1936 as the Division of Investigation and patterned after the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bureau's principal mission was to assist the Philippine Constabulary and police in crime detection and investigation, freeing them to concentrate on maintaining peace and order. Collection of intelligence on internal security threats was considered a related function. The Department of National Defense, meanwhile, maintained an extensive intelligence apparatus. Although little was publicly revealed about its organization or operation, it was known that the military's principal intelligence organ was the Intelligence Service of the AFP. Headed by a brigadier general, Intelligence Service units operated throughout the country. Their mission in 1990 included not only pursuing insurgents, but also gathering information on military coup plotters and participants. The military services, too, maintained their own intelligence arms. The regimental-size Intelligence and Security Group supported the army while the Constabulary Security Group served Philippine Constabulary leaders. The division of responsibilities among these military intelligence agencies, as well as the institutional mechanisms, if any, that were set up to coordinate their activities, were unclear.

Until the mid-1970s, when a major restructuring of the nation's police system was undertaken, the Philippine Constabulary alone was responsible for law enforcement on a national level. Independent city and municipal police forces took charge of maintaining peace and order on a local level, calling on the constabulary for aid when the need arose. The National Police Commission, established in 1966 to improve the professionalism and training of local police, had loose supervisory authority over the police. It was widely accepted, however, that this system had several serious defects. Most noteworthy were jurisdictional limitations, lack of uniformity and coordination, disputes between police forces, and partisan political involvement in police employment, appointments, assignments, and promotions. Local political bosses routinely used police as private armies, protecting their personal interests and intimidating political opponents. In order to correct such deficiencies, the 1973 constitution provided for the integration of public safety forces. Several presidential decrees were subsequently issued, integrating the police, fire, and jail services in the nation's more than 1,500 cities and municipalities. On August 8, 1975, Presidential Decree 765 officially established the joint command structure of the Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police. The constabulary, which had a well-developed nationwide command and staff structure, was given the task of organizing the integration. The chief of the Philippine Constabulary served jointly as the director general of the Integrated National Police. As constabulary commander, he reported through the military chain of command, and as head of the Integrated National Police, he reported directly to the minister (later secretary) of national defense. The National Police Commission was transferred to the Ministry (later Department) of National Defense, retaining its oversight responsibilities but turning over authority for training and other matters to the Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police. The Integrated National Police was assigned responsibility for public safety, protection of lives and property, enforcement of laws, and maintenance of peace and order throughout the nation. To carry out these responsibilities, it was given powers "to prevent crimes, effect the arrest of criminal offenders and provide for their detention and rehabilitation, prevent and control fires, investigate the commission of all crimes and offenses, bring the offenders to justice, and take all necessary steps to ensure public safety." In practice, the Philippine Constabulary retained responsibility for dealing with serious crimes or cases involving jurisdictions far separated from one another, and the Integrated National Police took charge of less serious crimes and local traffic, crime prevention, and public safety. The Integrated National Police's organization paralleled that of the constabulary. The thirteen Philippine Constabulary regional command headquarters were the nuclei for the Integrated National Police's regional commands. Likewise, the constabulary's seventy-three provincial commanders, in their capacity as provincial police superintendents, had operational control of Integrated National Police forces in their respective provinces. Provinces were further subdivided into 147 police districts, stations, and substations. The constabulary was responsible for patrolling remote rural areas. In Metro Manila's four cities and thirteen municipalities, the Integrated National Police's Metropolitan Police Force shared the headquarters of the constabulary's Capital Command. The commanding general of the Capital Command was also the director of the Integrated National Police's Metropolitan Police Force and directed the operations of the capital's four police and fire districts. As of 1985, the Integrated National Police numbered some 60,000 people, a marked increase over the 1980 figure of 51,000. Approximately 10 percent of these staff were fire and prison officials, and the remainder were police. The Philippine National Police Academy provided training for Integrated National Police officer cadets. Established under the Integrated National Police's Training Command in 1978, the academy offered a bachelor of science degree in public safety following a two-year course of study. Admission to the school was highly competitive. Integrated National Police was the subject of some criticism, and the repeated object of reform. Police were accused of involvement in illegal activities, violent acts and abuse. Charges of corruption were frequent. To correct the Integrated National Police's image problem, the government sponsored programs to identify and punish police offenders, and training designed to raise their standard of appearance, conduct, and performance. Dramatic changes were planned for the police in 1991. The newly formed Philippine National Police was to be a strictly civilian organization, removed from the armed forces and placed under a new civilian department known as the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Local police forces were supported at the national level by the National Bureau of Investigation. As an agency of the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation was authorized to "investigate, on its own initiative and in the public interest, crimes and other offenses against the laws of the Philippines; to help whenever officially requested, investigate or detect crimes or other offenses; (and) to act as a national clearing house of criminal records and other information." In addition, the bureau maintained a scientific crime laboratory and provided technical assistance on request to the police and constabulary. Local officials also played a role in law enforcement. By presidential decree, the justice system in the barangays empowered village leaders to handle petty and less serious crimes. The intent of the program was to reinforce the authority of local officials and to reduce the workload on already overtaxed Philippine law enforcement agencies.

Police and military forces committed a number of extrajudicial killings in 2001. The Government's Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigated 40 complaints of extrajudicial killings through June, compared with 152 during all of 2000. The CHR includes killings by antigovernment insurgents in its investigations. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented 17 summary executions of civilians by government forces. Approximately 100 persons were killed in violence related to the midterm national elections in May, 2001 including two sitting congressmen and a candidate for provincial governor. The NPA claimed responsibility for these and many other election-related killings. In combating criminal organizations, police personnel sometimes resorted to summary execution of suspects, or "salvaging." Police spokesmen later claimed that these killings were an unavoidable result of the exchange of gunfire with suspects or of escape attempts. The CHR reported that members of the PNP were the perpetrators of 30 percent of the human rights violations involving deaths that it investigated through June.

The Constitution prohibits torture, and evidence obtained through its use is legally inadmissible in court; however, members of the security forces and police have continued to use torture and otherwise abuse suspects and detainees. The CHR provides the police with mandatory human rights training, including primers on the rights of suspects. However, police awareness of the rights of those in custody remains inadequate, although awareness continued to increase somewhat during the year 2001. Common forms of abuse during arrest and interrogation included striking detainees with clubs and threatening them with guns. During the year, the police reportedly intensified efforts to dismiss abusive officers and investigate police units nationwide.


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; however, police in a number of cases arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily. The CHR investigated 52 cases of illegal arrest and detention through June, compared with 132 for all of 2000. The TFDP documented 174 politically motivated arrests by the Government, the majority of which were carried out with warrants. The Government denies that there are any political detentions or detainees.

Detainees have the right to a judicial review of the legality of their detention and, except for offenses punishable by a life sentence or death (when evidence of guilt is strong), the right to bail. Authorities are required to file charges within 12 to 36 hours of arrests made without warrants, depending on the seriousness of the crime for which the arrest was made. Due to the slow judicial process, the court system is unable to ensure expeditious trials for detained persons. In the aftermath of the May 1, 2001 uprising against the Government and President Macapagal-Arroyo's declaration of a state of rebellion, police made at least 100 warrantless arrests; human rights NGO's accused the Government of arbitrarily rounding up young men in poor urban areas of the capital. The Government also filed rebellion charges against key opposition leaders for inciting the uprising. These included Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and former Senator Ernesto Maceda, both of whom were permitted to post bail. At year's end, the Government did not appear to be actively pursuing the cases against Enrile and Maceda.

In July, 2001 the CHR issued an advisory noting reports of indiscriminate arrests and detentions in connection with the Government's crackdown on the terrorist ASG. Of the 26 Muslim suspects arrested in connection with fatal bombings in May 2000 in Metro Manila, 24 were released on their own recognizance in February; the other 2 suspects were released on bail. Their cases remained open at year's end. On January 4, 2001 police arrested 16 Muslims and 1 Christian in connection with 5 separate bombings on December 30, 2000. The explosions killed 20 civilians and two police officers. According to a CHR report, those arrested (including a 13-year-old child) were subjected to beatings intended to elicit confessions. It was later discovered that many of those arrested were not listed in the arrest warrant. All but one of the suspects, who was charged with multiple murder, were released by the Government; the Justice Secretary said there was no evidence to support holding the others. The Government also dropped charges filed by the Estrada administration against the top leaders of the MILF in connection with the same bombings. In September the National Bureau of Investigation issued arrest warrants for 8 additional suspects in the bombings. The NPA and MILF were responsible for a significant number of arbitrary arrests and detentions, often in connection with informal courts set up to try military personnel, police, local politicians, and other persons for "crimes against the people."


The legal system used in the early 1990s was derived for the most part from those of Spain and the United States. Civil code procedures on family and property and the absence of jury trial were attributable to Spanish influences, but most important statutes governing trade and commerce, labor relations, taxation, banking and currency, and governmental operations were of United States derivation, introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The national court system consists of four levels: Local and regional trial courts; a national Court of Appeals divided into 17 divisions; a 15-member Supreme Court; and an informal local system for arbitrating or mediating certain disputes outside the formal court system. The Sandiganbayan, the Government's anticorruption court, hears criminal cases brought against senior officials. A Shari'a (Islamic law) court system, with jurisdiction over domestic and contractual relations among Muslim citizens, operates in some Mindanao provinces.

Judicial power is vested in a Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. The 1981 Judicial Reorganization Act provides for four main levels of courts and several special courts. At the local level are metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, and municipal circuit trial courts. The next level consists of regional trial courts, one for each of the nation's thirteen political regions, including Manila. Courts at the local level have original jurisdiction over less serious criminal cases while more serious offenses are heard by the regional level courts, which also have appellate jurisdiction. At the national level is the Intermediate Appellate Court, also called the court of appeals. Special courts include Muslim circuit and district courts in Moro (Muslim Filipino) areas, the court of tax appeals, and the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan tries government officers and employees charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Supreme Court, at the apex of the judicial system, consists of a chief justice and fourteen associate justices. It has original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and over petitions for injunctions and writs of habeas corpus; it has appellate jurisdiction over all cases in which the constitutionality of any treaty, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, or regulation is questioned. The Supreme Court also may hear appeals in criminal cases involving a sentence of life in prison. Article 3 of the Constitution forbids the death penalty "unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it."

The Supreme Court also regulates the practice of law in the Philippines, promulgates rules on admission to the bar, and disciplines lawyers. To be admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, candidates must pass an examination that is administered once annually. Professional standards are similar to those of the United States; the Integrated Bar Association's code borrows heavily from the American Bar Association's rules. Some 30,000 attorneys practiced law in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, more than one-third of them in Manila. Counsel for the indigent, while not always available, is provided by government legal aid offices and various private organizations. Many of the private groups are active in representing "social justice" causes and are staffed by volunteers.

Members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts are appointed by the president from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. The Judicial and Bar Council consists of a representative of the Integrated Bar, a law professor, a retired member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector. Presidential appointments do not require confirmation. Supreme Court justices must be at least forty years of age when appointed and must retire at age seventy. According to Article 11 of the constitution, members of the Supreme Court "may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust." The House has exclusive power to initiate cases of impeachment. The Senate tries such cases, and two-thirds of the Senate must concur to convict someone. The judiciary is guaranteed fiscal autonomy.

The armed forces maintain an autonomous military justice system. Military courts are under the authority of the judge advocate general of the armed forces, who is also responsible for the prosecutorial function in the military courts. Military courts operate under their own procedures but are required to accord the accused the same constitutional safeguards received by civilians. Military tribunals have jurisdiction over all active duty members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The traditional independence of the courts had been heavily compromised in the Marcos era. Because the 1973 constitution allowed Marcos to fire members of the judiciary, including members of the Supreme Court, at any time, anyone inclined to oppose him was intimidated into either complying or resigning. None of his acts or decrees was declared unconstitutional. The thirteen Marcos-appointed Supreme Court justices resigned after he fled, and Aquino immediately appointed ten new justices.

The Philippines has always been a highly litigious society, and the courts often were used to carry on personal vendettas and family feuds. There was widespread public perception that at least some judges could be bought. Public confidence in the judicial system was dealt a particular blow in 1988 when a special prosecutor alleged that six Supreme Court justices had pressured him to "go easy" on their friends. The offended justices threatened to cite the prosecutor for contempt. Aquino did not take sides in this dispute. The net effect was to confirm many Filipinos' cynicism about the impartiality of justice.

Justice was endlessly delayed in the late 1980s. Court calendars were jammed. Most lower courts lacked stenographers. A former judge reported in 1988 that judges routinely scheduled as many as twenty hearings at the same time in the knowledge that lawyers would show up only to ask for a postponement. One tax case heard in 1988 had been filed 50 years before, and a study of the tax court showed that even if the judges were to work 50 percent faster, it would take them 476 years to catch up. Even in the spectacular case of the 1983 murder of Senator Benigno Aquino, the judicial system did not function speedily or reliably. It took five years to convict some middle-ranking officers, and although the verdict obliquely hinted at then-Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver's ultimate responsibility, the court never directly addressed that question.

The indictment of former Minister of Defense Enrile on the charge of "rebellion with murder" shows that the courts can be independent of the president, but also that powerful people are handled gently. Enrile was arrested on February 27, 1990, for his alleged role in the December 1989 coup attempt in which more than 100 people died. Because Enrile was powerful, he was given an air-conditioned suite in jail, a telephone, and a computer, and a week later he was released on 100,000 pesos bail. In June 1990, the Supreme Court invalidated the charges against him. A further test of the court system was expected in the 1990s when criminal and civil charges were to be brought against Imelda Marcos. In 1991 Aquino agreed to allow the former first lady, who could not leave New York City without the permission of the United States Department of Justice, to return to the Philippines to face charges of graft and corruption. Swiss banking authorities agreed to return approximately US$350 million to the Philippine government only if Marcos were tried and convicted. Marcos did not seem to be reluctant to face the Philippine courts.

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judicial system suffers from corruption and inefficiency. Personal ties undermine the commitment of some government employees to ensuring due process and equal justice, resulting in impunity for wealthy and influential offenders.

The Constitution provides that those accused of crimes be informed of the charges against them, have the right to counsel, and be provided a speedy and public trial. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present evidence, and to appeal convictions. The authorities respect the right of defendants to be represented by a lawyer, although poverty often inhibits a defendant's access to effective legal representation. The Public Attorney's Office (PAO) is staffed by highly skilled and motivated defense lawyers, but the workload is great and resources are scarce. The PAO provides legal representation for all indigent litigants at trial; however, during arraignment, courts may at their option appoint any lawyer present in the courtroom to provide counsel to the accused. During the year, the PAO handled more than 1.1 million judicial cases and an additional 3.7 million mediation cases.

Legal experts inside and outside the justice system criticize personal and professional relationships between some judges and individual or corporate litigants. Some lawyers act as "case fixers," gaining the favor of judges and other court officials and allegedly bribing some witnesses. It is illegal to settle a criminal case out of court, but the practice of reaching an "amicable settlement" in which the prosecution drops charges is routine. Such settlements may result in impunity for wealthy or influential defendants.

According to the Constitution, cases are to be resolved within set time limits once submitted for decision: 24 months for the Supreme Court; 12 months for the court of appeals; and 3 months for lower courts. There are no time limits for trials. Because of numerous technical delays and the frequent failure of judges and prosecutors to appear, trials may last many months. The pace of the judicial process is slow. The court system is unable to ensure expeditious trials for detained persons. There is a widely recognized need for more prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms. Of the more than 2,100 trial court judgeships nationwide, 34 percent remained vacant at year's end due to a lack of qualified applicants. Vacancies in Mindanao and other poorer provinces particularly are unattractive to many jurists. The situation was most critical in western Mindanao, where only 17 of the 54 judgeships were filled, and in the Shari'a courts, where only 18 of the 56 district or circuit courts had judges. Judges' salaries often are considered low in comparison with salaries in other occupations, and low pay renders both judges and prosecutors susceptible to corruption.

International and domestic NGO's, citing persistent deficiencies in the judicial system, have consistently criticized many court proceedings that resulted in death sentences, stating that the judicial system does not ensure the rights of defendants to due process and legal representation. At times defendants in death penalty cases lacked adequate legal representation at the time of arrest, indictment, or at trial. By law the Supreme Court reviews all death sentences. In April 2001, senior government officials announced a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; however, in October, 2001 the President said it was her duty to uphold the law in cases affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Indemnification claims for alleged human rights abuses during the Ferdinand Marcos era, which ended in 1986, remain unresolved.

Although Shari'a courts do not have criminal jurisdiction, the MILF asserts that its Islamic law courts do. There were no reports of executions resulting from MILF court decisions during the year 2001.

The NPA continued to subject military personnel, police, local politicians, and other persons to its so-called courts for "crimes against the people" and to execute some of them.

Various human rights NGO's maintain lists of incarcerated persons they allege to be political prisoners; numbers usually range from 75 to over 250. Typically there is no distinction in these lists between detainees and prisoners, and the majority of persons on these lists have not been convicted. Some face murder, kidnaping, and other serious charges, but many are charged with possession of drugs or firearms, which some NGO's assert is a sign of planting of evidence by the police. The Government denies that there are political detainees or prisoners, and maintains that all incarcerated persons have been convicted of or charged with common crimes. There are differences of opinion even within the CHR; some members of the commission believe that certain persons are incarcerated for political reasons, but other members believe that the same persons are guilty of common crimes. The Government in fact uses the NGO lists in the conduct of its pardon, parole, and amnesty programs.

In January, 2001 the self-exiled leader of the Communist Party demanded that the Government free all political prisoners, and in return offered to begin negotiations for the release of an AFP officer and a PNP inspector kidnaped by the NPA in July and October 1999, respectively. During the year 2001, the President approved the pardon, parole, or release on bail of more than 75 persons, many of whose names were included on the various NGO lists. Included were the 26 Muslims arrested in connection with the fatal bombings in May 2000.

In September, 2001 a regional trial court in Quezon City ordered the release of an NPA commander to the custody of his lawyer. The accused had been detained since November 1999 in connection with the kidnaping of two AFP officers, including a general, that year. He also has been linked to the massacre of 50 civilians in Davao del Sur in the late 1980's.


In the late 1980s, institutions for the confinement of convicts and the detention of those awaiting trial included a variety of national prisons and penal farms as well as numerous small local jails and lockups. In general, the national prisons housed more serious offenders, and those serving short-term sentences were held in local facilities. The prison system at the national level was supervised by the Bureau of Prisons of the Department of Justice. The bureau was responsible for the safekeeping of prisoners and their rehabilitation through general and moral education and technical training in industry and agriculture. The bureau also oversaw the operation of prison agro-industries and the production of food commodities. In 1991 the newly formed Philippine National Police took over administration of local jails.

The government maintained six correctional institutions and penal farms. The nation's largest prison was the National Penitentiary at Muntinlupa, Rizal Province, near Manila, which also operated the Manila City Jail. The penitentiary served as the central facility for those sentenced to life imprisonment or long-term incarceration. It was divided into two camps to separate those serving maximum and minimum penalties. The Correctional Institution for Women was located in Metropolitan Manila. Combination prison and penal farms also were located in Zamboanga City, and in Palawan, Mindoro Occidental, and in several Mindanao provinces. Prison conditions in the Philippines were generally poor, and prison life was harsh.

Some prison inmates were eligible for parole and probation. Before serving their sentence, felons, who were not charged with subversion or insurgency, or had not been on probation before, could apply for probation. Probationers were required to meet with their parole officers monthly, to avoid any further offense, and to comply with all other court-imposed conditions. After serving an established minimum sentence, certain prisoners could apply to their parole board for release. The board could also recommend pardon to the president for prisoners it believed to have reformed and who presented no menace to society.

In 1991 crime still was a serious, if somewhat reduced, threat to the general peace and security of society and was aggravated by corruption in the police and court systems. The politicization of the military was seen as a long-term problem and the threat of a military coup remained significant. The threat of a CPP-led takeover seemed to be receding as NPA guerrilla strength ebbed. The socioeconomic roots of the revolutionary movement remained and promised to make the insurgency a problem for some time to come, despite its slow decline. The government also recognized the continuing threat posed by well-armed Filipino Muslim rebels, although few feared a near-term resurgent Moro uprising. External security threats were not perceived.

Today, prison conditions are harsh in the Phillipines. Provincial jails and prisons are overcrowded, have limited exercise and sanitary facilities, and provide prisoners with an inadequate diet. The Government reported that jails in the metropolitan Manila area were operating at 250 percent of capacity, and that 85 percent of the inmates were detainees unable to post bail. Administrators budget a daily subsistence allowance of about $0.60 (30 pesos). Prison inmates often depend on their families for food because of the insufficient subsistence allowance. In national prisons, male and female inmates are held in separate facilities, overseen by guards of the same sex. In provincial and municipal prisons, male guards may oversee female prisoners, directly or indirectly. In Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) detention facilities, male and female inmates are segregated by sex, but male guards oversee both sexes. Children in some instances are held in facilities not fully segregated from adult male inmates. There were reports that guards abused prisoners. In March 2001, Amnesty International reported that women in police custody were particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical assault by police and prison officials. Victims often were afraid to report incidents. There were reports that detainees at the BID detention center were released after making cash payments to guards.

Official corruption is a serious problem in the prison system. Jail administrators reportedly delegate authority to maintain order to senior inmates. The CHR reported that beatings by prison guards and other inmates were common, but prisoners, fearing retaliation, refused to lodge complaints. Some prominent prisoners and jailed celebrities receive preferential treatment. Favored inmates reportedly enjoy access to outside contacts, enabling them to trade in prostitution and drugs.

According to penal authorities, nearly 24,000 persons were incarcerated in 7 national prisons and penal farms at year's end 2001, including 108 minors imprisoned on specific orders from the sentencing judge. Another 39,000 persons were incarcerated in more than 1,250 district, city and municipal jails, including more than 2,000 minors; nearly 92 percent of these persons had not yet been convicted of a crime. Statistics were not available for the 78 provincial and 29 subprovincial jails under the control of local government units nationwide. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) operates 10 Regional Rehabilitation Centers for Youth Offenders. Nearly 1,300 youths, more than 98 percent of them males, were assisted in these centers during the year.

In 2000 the CHR conducted a nationwide investigation of prison facilities. Its advisory opinion cited inhuman conditions in jails and prisons in many parts of the country. The CHR stated that the Manila city jail was unfit for human habitation, housing 3,400 inmates in facilities designed to hold 1,000 inmates. Such conditions, according to the CHR, contributed to violence among inmates. It also stated that 27 inmates at the Manila jail should have been confined at a psychiatric facility and that convicted prisoners are commingled with inmates awaiting trial. International monitoring groups and the ICRC are allowed free access to jails and prisons. There were reports that detainees at some facilities were required to pay guards in order to receive medical attention.


Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a serious societal problem. The law does not specifically address the problem of domestic violence; complaints of domestic violence are filed under the charge of "physical injury." Statistics are not disaggregated to indicate the number of physical injury cases that result from domestic violence. The Department of Social Welfare and Development assisted an average of seven women per day who complained of domestic abuse, not including rape. Public attention on domestic violence increased in December 2001, with the suicide of a famous actress whose husband, a former governor and congressman, reportedly had abused her for years.

Women's advocates cite double standards of morality and a traditional societal reluctance to discuss private family affairs as some of the reasons for domestic violence. The absence of divorce under the law and limited job opportunities combine to limit the ability of both poor and wealthy women to escape destructive relationships. The PNP and the DSWD both maintain women's help desks to assist victims of violence against women and to encourage the reporting of crimes. With the assistance of NGO's, officers received gender sensitivity training to deal with victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. Many PNP stations included female officers.

The law provides for the death penalty in cases of rape; nonetheless, rape continued to be a major problem. Spousal rape and abuse also are illegal, but enforcement is ineffective. The PNP reported that it investigated more than 2,600 cases of rape during the year; most of the alleged perpetrators were arrested. Some women's groups stated that courts' imposition of death sentences for rape convictions may inhibit some victims, particularly relatives of the accused, from pressing charges. Of nearly 1,900 prisoners sentenced to death, 52 percent were convicted of rape. There has been only one conviction for marital rape.

Many women suffer exposure to violence through their recruitment, often through deception, into prostitution. Although illegal, prostitution remains widespread. A 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) study estimated that 500,000 women are engaged in prostitution within the country. Most prostitutes work independently or in small brothels rather than in prominent "entertainment clubs." Penalties for the offense are light, but detained prostitutes are subjected to administrative indignities. There were reports of sexual exploitation of children. The Antivagrancy Act often is used by police officers as a pretext to extort money from prostitutes; those unable to pay may be subjected to sexual abuse. In March 2001, Amnesty International reported that women in police custody were particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical assault by police and jail officials. Victims often were afraid to report such incidents. Local officials condone a climate of impunity for those who exploit prostitutes--both the entertainment club owners and their patrons. Highly publicized official campaigns to close clubs and brothels fail to rescue young women from the abuse because the offending establishments usually are operating again a few days after such raids. The penalties for exploiting women for prostitution are not considered sufficient to deter those who engage in such activities. The DSWD continued to provide temporary shelter and counseling to women engaged in prostitution, but officials believe that this helped only a small number of victims of illicit recruitment. DSWD officials noted that the number rescued failed to reflect the true extent of the prostitution problem since it reflected only those who obtained temporary shelter and counseling through the DSWD and local governments. NGO's argue that the Government first should address the abuses of dislocation and homelessness in order to address effectively the problem of women's exposure to the structural violence inherent in prostitution. Sex tourism is a serious problem, but few steps have been taken to end the practice. Hotel and travel industry leaders continued to refuse to honor their pledges to cooperate with a code endorsed by international tourism groups to stop sex tourism. Trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labor are problems


Widespread poverty forces many young children to work. According to UNICEF and ILO studies, some 2 million children were exposed to hazardous working environments, such as in quarries, mines, and at docksides in order to earn their living. Sexual exploitation and trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation are problems. It is estimated that approximately 60,000 children are involved in the commercial sex industry. The Government estimates that there are as many as 200,000 street children nationwide, half of them in the greater Manila area. Welfare officials believe that the number is increasing as a result of widespread unemployment in rural areas. Many street children appear to be abandoned children engaged in scavenging or begging. In September 2001, an ILO-sponsored report stated that children as young as 5 years old were involved in the production and sale of illegal narcotics. In February police arrested a 9-year-old working as a drug courier.

Greater public awareness has eroded traditional reluctance to report abuses against children. DSWD offices served nearly 7,500 victims of child abuse during the year, 73 percent of whom were girls. Some 60 percent of the girls were victims of sexual abuse, while the majority of the boys had been abandoned or neglected. The problem of foreign pedophiles continued to be reported in the press, and the Government continued to prosecute accused pedophiles. In May, 2001 a Member of Congress who had been convicted and sentenced to two life terms in prison in 1997 for the 1996 rape of an 11-year-old girl, was reelected for the second time since his initial conviction. In November the Supreme Court reaffirmed the conviction. Congressional leaders said they would wait until the Court's ruling became final before initiating expulsion procedures.

The family court system expedites juvenile and domestic relations cases and serves to strengthen safeguards against the sale and trafficking of children abroad. The Supreme Court promulgated rules designed to avoid trauma to child witnesses, which took effect in January 2001. The rules permit nonlawyers to pose questions, allow the child to have companions of her own choosing present, provide for the exclusion of persons not having a direct interest in the case, and permit use of videotaped testimony and one-way mirrors.


The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, and trafficking in persons is a serious problem. The Government used five laws against related illegal commerce to address and prosecute trafficking. On October 24, the Senate ratified the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two protocols on human trafficking and smuggling. The Philippines is a source, transit point, and, to a lesser degree, destination country for trafficking in persons. Internal trafficking is also a problem.

Over the past decade, approximately 150,000 Filipino women reportedly have been trafficked into prostitution in Asia (particularly Japan), Europe, and North America. Tens of thousands of men and women from mainland China are trafficked through the country, to other parts of the world, including to Pacific island nations and the United States. A relatively smaller number of adults and a larger number of children are trafficked within the country by illegal recruiters. Children from poor rural areas are brought to major urban centers for purposes of sexual exploitation and to work as domestic servants. Some recruiters reportedly bring girls between the ages of 13 and 17 to work as servants under terms that involve a loan advanced to their parents that the children are obliged to repay through their work. This internal economic migration is viewed widely as a socially acceptable means of upward economic mobility for rural and poor families. Children and young women typically are trafficked internally from rural areas to Manila and other urban centers. According to unconfirmed reports a number of Filipinos from the southern part of the country are recruited to Singapore with promises of employment as seafarers. Once there, they are impressed aboard Taiwan-owned fishing boats, which fish the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean, their passports are confiscated and they often are paid little or no wages. The traffickers of Chinese nationals typically are Chinese international organized crime gangs, and local employment recruitment agencies generally traffic citizen victims. There is no known evidence that government agencies facilitate, condone, or are otherwise complicit in trafficking; however, corruption is pervasive, and some government officials such as customs officers, border guards, immigration officials, and local police receive bribes from traffickers.

Many women seek employment overseas and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by recruiters who promise attractive jobs or, in some cases, arrange marriages with foreign men, often via Internet-based mail-order-bride schemes. Some eventually work as prostitutes or suffer abuse by their foreign employers or husbands. Those recruited to work as maids, entertainers, or models overseas may be forced to participate in public shows or dances in which nudity and the prospect of sex are the principal attractions to clients. Other persons knowingly accept questionable jobs to support parents, children, or siblings with their remittances. Victims of trafficking, typically single women between the ages of 20 and 29, variously report being confined or detained, denied money or food, being held in debt servitude, deprived of normal social interaction, and forced to work long hours. Some report never being paid at all. There were reports of the sexual exploitation of children. Despite government efforts at law enforcement and expanded children's programs, it is estimated that some 60,000 children are involved in the commercial sex industry. Most of these children were girls, and nearly all have dropped out of school. Children in the "entertainment industry" work long (10 to 12), odd hours from evening until early morning. Typically they come from families with unemployed or irregularly employed parents.

There were no prosecutions for trafficking in persons during the year 2001; however, more than 1,900 victims filed complaints of illegal recruitment during the year, an increase of 36 percent over 2000. Seven recruiters were convicted of illegal recruitment with four sentenced to life imprisonment. In a case involving the attempted smuggling of Chinese nationals to destinations in North America, the authorities arrested 13 persons of various nationalities. Five citizens were arrested for child abuse and the transportation of female children for immoral purposes in a case involving the recruitment of children to serve as prostitutes for foreign tourists.

The DSWD, which is the lead agency in public assistance to victims of trafficking, continued to provide temporary shelter and counseling to women engaged in prostitution, but officials believe that this helped only a small number of victims of illicit recruitment. It also offered livelihood skills development and other services. DSWD officials noted that the number rescued failed to reflect the true extent of the prostitution problem since it reflected only those who obtained temporary shelter and counseling through the DSWD and local governments. The 1995 Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act was enacted to provide the Government with greater financial resources and improved authority to combat such problems. However, NGO's believe that such measures have been inadequate, since traffickers remain numerous and effective in luring women with promises of lucrative overseas contracts. The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women is the Government's lead agency on women's issues, including trafficking. Its principal function is to coordinate the implementation of government programs on the integration of women in national development. It monitors compliance with laws on equal treatment and protection of women and serves as a clearinghouse for related information. In 1999 the Department of Foreign Affairs established an internal task force on trafficking in persons. Within the DOLE, the Bureau of Women's Affairs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) address different aspects of the trafficking problem. The POEA, as part of the DOLE, continued its efforts to end illegal recruiting. At year's end, it had closed 28 firms for illegal recruitment, an increase of 154 percent over the previous year. It also has raised the age, educational requirements, and professional standards for young women seeking jobs abroad. Several Cabinet departments, presidential commissions, and legislators also are involved in vigorous public awareness campaigns. The CHR investigates violations of the rights of trafficking victims and establishes cases for prosecution. It conducts public information and sectoral education campaigns, and provides human rights training for other government agencies, including the PNP. The Government, in cooperation with the U.N. Center for International Crime Prevention has implemented a pilot project, "Coalitions against Trafficking in Human Beings in the Philippines." The project's action plan outlines a 2-year strategy for improving interagency coordination, strengthening law enforcement, and developing strategies to assist victims.

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A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University