Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, with penalties ranging from 12 to 40 years’ imprisonment with pardon or parole possible only after 30 years’ imprisonment. Conviction can also result in a lifetime ban from political office. Penalties for forcible sexual assault range from six to 12 years’ imprisonment. As of July, 5,973 cases of rape were reported to the PNP, significantly more than in the same period in 2015. National statistics on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments were unavailable, but BuCor reported that it held 9,362 prisoners convicted of rape, 487 of whom it admitted as of August.
There continued to be reports of rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody. Women from marginalized groups, such as suspected prostitutes, drug users, and indigent individuals arrested for minor crimes, were more likely to be victims of sexual violence.
The Department of Social welfare and Development (DSWD) provided shelter, counseling, and health services to female survivors of rape.
Domestic violence against women remained a serious and widespread problem. The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological harm or abuse to women and children committed by their spouses, partners, or parents. As of July, the PNP reported 16,007 cases of domestic violence against women and children. Statistics were unavailable on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments for cases filed by the PNP during the year.
As of June, the DSWD extended assistance to 232 survivors of physical abuse and mistreatment, a small fraction of incidents reported to the police, which were themselves likely to be only a fraction of total incidents. NGOs noted that, in smaller localities, perpetrators of abuse sometimes used personal relationships with local authorities to avoid prosecution.
The PNP and DSWD both maintained help desks to assist survivors of violence against women and encourage reporting. With the assistance of NGOs, the CHR, and the Philippine Commission on Women, law enforcement officers continued to receive gender-sensitivity training to deal with victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The PNP maintained a women and children’s unit with 1,918 desks throughout the country to deal with abuse cases.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations are punishable by imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months, and/or a fine of not less than 10,000 PHP ($213) and not more than 20,000 PHP ($426). Sexual harassment remained widespread and under-reported, including in the workplace, due to victims’ fear of losing their jobs. For example, women in the retail industry worked on three- to six-month contracts and were often reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear their contracts would not be renewed.
Reproductive Rights: The Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution upholds the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
According to the December 2015 Human Development Report, the maternal mortality rate reportedly was 120 per 100,000 live births, and skilled attendants participated in 62 percent of births. The UN Development Program (UNDP) attributed the high rate of maternal deaths to inadequate access to integrated reproductive health services by women. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that poverty, remote locations, and a lack of education exacerbated delays in seeking potentially life-saving maternal medical care. Midwives at times had little formal training. Medical personnel also routinely mistreated and denied proper care to women who sought assistance for complications from unsafe abortions.
Provision of health care services is the responsibility of local governments, and restrictions on the provision of family planning supplies at government-run health facilities in some localities reduced their availability to the poor, although modern forms of contraception were available on the market in most areas. During the year local NGOs also reported the government was not committed to providing education and information on modern methods of contraception.
As amended by a Supreme Court ruling in 2014, the 2012 Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RH law) allows health practitioners to deny reproductive health services based on personal or religious beliefs in nonemergency situations; requires spousal consent for women in nonlife-threatening situations to obtain reproductive health care; requires minors in nonlife-threatening situations to get parental consent before obtaining reproductive health care; and does not require private health-care facilities to provide access to family planning methods. Many NGOs, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, asserted that these restrictions prevented the full implementation of the law.
On April 8, the CHR launched a national inquiry into reproductive health and rights amid reports of local government units denying women access to reproductive health services. In Sorsogon City, for example, the mayor signed a pro-life executive order, which resulted in the withdrawal of contraceptives from health centers.
In September the Supreme Court sustained its June 2015 temporary restraining order preventing the Department of Health (DOH) from procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising, or promoting specific hormonal contraceptives. The same decision also prevents the Food and Drug Administration from granting any pending application for registration and/or recertification of reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices. The decision came in a case filed against the department for allegedly failing to abide by the RH law’s implementing guidelines. The decision blocks the inclusion of contraceptive implants in government reproductive health programs.
President Duterte has said that supporting family planning is a key element of poverty alleviation. The 2017 federal budget signed into law in December included 4.3 billion PHP ($91.6 million) allocated to the DOH for the implementation of the RH law, an almost two-fold increase over the 2.2 billion PHP ($46.9 million) allocated in the current budget.
Discrimination: In law, but not always in practice, women have most of the rights and protections accorded to men and the law seeks to eliminate discrimination against women. The law accords women the same property rights as men. In Muslim and indigenous communities, however, property ownership law or tradition grant men more property rights than women.
In May a CHR resolution found the words (including a joke during the presidential campaign about the rape and murder of an Australian national) and actions of then-president-elect Duterte to be in violation of the law because they amounted to violence against women. In accordance with the law, the CHR called on the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Interior and Local Governance to recommend appropriate sanctions.
No law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring, although the law does prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Nonetheless, women continued to face discrimination on the job as well as in hiring (see section 7.d.).
The Philippines does not allow divorce. Legal annulments are possible and courts generally recognized foreign divorces if one of the parties was a foreigner. These options, however, are costly, complex, and not readily available to the poor. The Office of the Solicitor General is required to oppose requests for annulment under the constitution. Muslims have the right to divorce under Muslim family law. Informal separation is common, but brings with it potential legal problems.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from birth to a citizen parent and, in certain circumstances, from birth within the country’s territory to alien parents. The government promoted birth registration, and authorities immediately registered births in health facilities. Births outside facilities were less likely to be registered promptly, if at all. NGOs previously estimated that more than 2.5 million children were unregistered, primarily among Muslim and indigenous groups. Authorities could deprive children of education if they lacked required documents, such as birth certificates. The DSWD continued working closely with local governments to improve registration; the Philippines Statistics Authority operated mobile birth registration units to reach rural areas.
Education: Kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education is free and compulsory through age 18, but the quality of education was often poor, and access was not universal, especially in rural areas. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported in May that one in every 10 Filipinos between the ages of six and 24, or 2.4 million persons, was out of school. The shift during the year to free education nationwide through grade 12 put significant strain on educational resources, particularly in rural and poor areas.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem. From January to June, the DSWD offices served 2,650 victims of child abuse, 68 percent of whom were girls. Several cities ran crisis centers for abused women and children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both sexes is 18; anyone below 21 must have parental consent. Under Muslim personal law, Muslim boys may marry at 15 and girls may marry when they reach puberty. According to a 2012 UNFPA report, 14 percent of women between 20 and 24 were married before they were 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities endeavored to enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 12. The statutory rape law criminalizes sex with minors under 12 and sex with a child under 18 involving force, threat, or intimidation. The maximum penalty for child rape is 40 years in prison plus a lifetime ban from political office. As of July, the PNP reported 4,533 cases of child rape, representing 75 percent of total rape cases. The production, possession, and distribution of child pornography are illegal, and penalties range from one month to life in prison, plus fines from 50,000 to five million PHP ($1,060 to $106,400), depending on the gravity of the offense.
Despite these penalties, law enforcement agencies and NGOs reported that criminals continued to use minors unlawfully in the production of pornography and in cybersex activities.
Child prostitution continued to be a serious problem, and the country remained a destination for child sex tourism by clients from the country and many foreign countries. The government continued to prosecute accused pedophiles and deport those who were foreigners. Of the 2,650 victims of child abuse to whom DSWD offices provided services as of June, the DSWD identified 852 as victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, including victims of cyber pornography. The National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP worked closely with DOLE to target and close facilities suspected of prostituting minors.
Displaced Children: In 2012 UNICEF estimated there were some 250,000 street children, the same number as in 2009. Many street children appeared abandoned and engaged in scavenging or begging. From January to July, the DSWD provided residential and community-based services to 2,662 street children nationwide. The DSWD’s Comprehensive Program for Street Children, Families, and Indigenous Peoples includes activity centers, assistance on education and livelihood, and community service programs. Unlike 2015, NGOs did not report any killings of street children involved in petty crime by vigilantes with ties to local government authorities. Displacement due to violence affected children in parts of Mindanao, sometimes disrupting access to education.
Under the juvenile justice law, children who are 15 years old and younger who commit a crime are exempt from criminal liability. Police stations had youth relations officers to ensure that authorities treat suspects who are minors appropriately, but in some cases they ignored procedural safeguards and facilities were not child friendly. The law mandates the DSWD to provide shelter, treatment, and rehabilitation services to these children. As of June, the DSWD assisted 1,476 children in conflict with the law (that is, alleged as, accused of, or judged as having committed an offense under the law) in 16 rehabilitation centers nationwide. Additionally, several local governments established and managed youth centers that provided protection, care, training, and rehabilitation for these children and other at-risk youth.
The PNP’s Women and Children’s Protection Center reported that approximately 38,000 minors surrendered to authorities in response to the antidrug campaign. As the legal status of those voluntarily surrendering remained ambiguous, it was not clear that these minors were being treated as required by law.
International Child Abductions: The country ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during the year. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/legal/compliance.html.
An estimated 500 to 5,000 persons of Jewish heritage, mostly foreign nationals, lived in the country. There were no reported cases of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and other social services, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Laws, such as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, provide for equal access for persons with both physical and mental disabilities to all public buildings and establishments, but many barriers remained.
The National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) formulated policies and coordinated the activities of government agencies for the rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance of persons with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society.
Persons with disabilities continued to face discrimination and other challenges in finding employment (see section 7.d.). Persons with disabilities frequently solicited donations in the streets, an indicator of the limited options available for livelihood.
From January to June, the DSWD provided services to 2,841 persons with disabilities in assisted-living centers and community-based vocational centers for persons with disabilities nationwide.
Advocates for persons with disabilities contended that equal-access laws were ineffective due to weak implementing regulations, insufficient funding, and inadequately focused integrative government programs. Many public buildings, particularly older ones, lacked functioning elevators. While recent data was unavailable, the great majority of public buildings remained inaccessible to persons with physical disabilities. Many schools had architectural barriers that made attendance difficult for persons with disabilities.
Some children with disabilities attended schools in mainstream or inclusive educational settings. Children with a disability, living in poverty or rural areas, however, were unlikely to have access to education. In 2015 the Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reported that the Department of Education’s 448 special education centers were inaccessible or too expensive for the average family and most were in urban areas. The government lacked a clear system for informing parents of children with disabilities of their educational right and did not have a well-defined procedure for reporting discrimination in education.
Government efforts to improve access to transportation for persons with disabilities were limited. Two of Manila’s three light-rail lines were wheelchair accessible, but many stops had unrepaired, out-of-service elevators. Most buses lacked wheelchair lifts. A small number of sidewalks had blocked, crumbling, or too-steep wheelchair ramps. The situation was worse in many smaller cities and towns.
The constitution provides for the right of persons with physical disabilities to vote, with the assistance of other persons if necessary. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) determines the capacity of persons with mental disabilities to vote during the registration process and citizens may appeal exclusions and inclusions in court. A federal act authorizes COMELEC to establish accessible voting centers exclusively for persons with disabilities and senior citizens. During the year COMELEC reported that 193,904 persons with disabilities were registered voters, of whom 160,802 voted.
Although no specific laws discriminate against indigenous people, the geographical remoteness of the areas that many inhabit and cultural bias prevented their full integration into society. Indigenous children often suffered from lack of health care, education, and other basic services. In 2015 NGOs estimated that up to 70 percent of indigenous youth either never attended school or left school because of discrimination. Government officials indicated that approximately 80 percent of the country’s government units complied with the long-standing legal requirement that indigenous peoples be represented in policy-making bodies and local legislative councils.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, a government agency staffed by tribal members, was responsible for implementing constitutional provisions to protect indigenous peoples. It has authority to award certificates identifying “ancestral domain lands” based on communal ownership, thereby stopping tribal leaders from selling the land. Additionally, the commission studies “ancestral sea” claims, since some indigenous groups, such as the Sama-Bajau, who customarily lived in western Mindanao, traditionally practiced migratory fishing. Approvals of “ancestral sea” claims were limited, and the lack of access to traditional fishing grounds contributed to the displacement of many Sama-Bajau.
Indigenous people suffered disproportionately from armed conflict, including by displacement from their homes, because they often inhabited mountainous areas favored by insurgents and other militants. There were, however, no statistics that quantified violence against or among indigenous populations or compared it to rates of violence in the majority community.
Armed groups frequently recruited from indigenous populations. In 2015 UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs Chaloka Beyani visited more than 700 displaced Lumads or other indigenous people from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. The displaced aired their concerns about long-term militarization in the region. Beyani reported the alleged coercive recruitment of Lumads into a paramilitary group known as “Alamara,” which was reportedly linked to the AFP, and harassment in the context of the continuing conflict between the AFP and the NPA (see section 2.d.). Indigenous peoples’ lands were also often the site of armed encounters related to resource extraction or intertribal disputes.
There were reports of the AFP or Alamara hampering access to education for indigenous children by closing or occupying schools with alleged ties to the NPA.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
National laws neither criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct nor prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nineteen cities or municipalities have some version of an antidiscrimination ordinance that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender–but not intersex–rights.
Officials prohibit transgender individuals from self-reporting their gender on passport applications. Authorities print the sex assigned at birth, as reported on the certificate of birth, in the individual’s passport. NGOs reported that the discrepancy between a transgender person’s outward appearance and their identification documents has led to difficulties for transgender persons, particularly at airports. Transgender travelers have been harassed and even offloaded for not appearing to match their official gender identity.
NGOs seeking to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals from discrimination and abuse criticized the government for the absence of applicable law and policy. NGOs reported incidents of discrimination and abuse, including in employment (see section 7.d.), education, health care, housing, and social services. The Rainbow Rights Project, Inc., a group of lawyers advocating for LGBTI rights, claimed that LGBTI human rights defenders, particularly in Muslim areas, experienced pressure from community authorities to conduct their activities less openly because of increasing religious radicalization.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and provides for basic health and social services for them. Nevertheless, there was anecdotal evidence of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients in the government’s provision of health care, housing, employment, and insurance services (see section 7.d.). In 2015 the NGO Project Red Ribbon reported that more than 22,000 persons in the country had HIV/AIDS, but that the 19 treatment hubs in the country covered only half of the population in need of antiretroviral treatment. Furthermore, those who did have access to treatment faced instability in their supply of life-saving drugs because imports were occasionally delayed by the Bureau of Customs.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
During the year unknown assailants, often described as vigilantes and at times suspected of having ties to security forces (see section 1.a.), were suspected of summary killings of alleged drug dealers and users. As of December, there were more than 4,000 victims of alleged summary execution, which the PNP has labeled as “deaths under investigation.” Many of the victims were found adorned with cardboard signs, plastic wrap, garbage bags, or other markers designating them as drug dealers.