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Philippines: Elections point to ominous moment for human rights

With Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and Sara Duterte poised to win the Philippine elections, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Regional Director Emerlynne Gil said:  

“Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr and Sara Duterte’s past avoidance of discussing human rights violations in the Philippines is deeply concerning. During the campaign period, it seemed that they were deliberately refusing to take a position on past and present violations – including those committed under martial law in the 1970s and early 1980s, and in the context of the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s ‘war on drugs’. 

“If confirmed, the Marcos Jr administration will face a wide array of urgent human rights challenges. The new government should make a dramatic course correction and move away from the past six years under Rodrigo Duterte, when authorities increased attacks against political opponents and human rights defenders, cracked down on press freedom and oversaw widespread and systemic killings in the so-called war on drugs. 

“The widespread arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings that occurred in the martial law era and violations committed more recently during the Duterte administration must never be allowed to happen again.

“Amnesty International will not waver in its commitment to call out human rights violations and bring perpetrators to account, including for violations committed in the past. It is only through a genuine commitment to justice, truth and accountability for such violations that the Philippines can move forward in building respect for the rule of law and human rights.” 

Background: 

Though results have not been officially announced, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr is set to emerge victorious, according to reports and initial tallies. He would take up the post after President Rodrigo Duterte, who served from 2016 to 2022. The Philippine Constitution only allows for one six-year presidential term. 

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Duterte, is poised to win the vice-presidency, which is voted on separately. Other top posts up for grabs included senators, congressional representatives, and major local posts including provincial governors and city mayors.  

Marcos Jr is the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who declared and presided over martial law in the Philippines from 1972-1981. During the campaign period, various monitoring groups observed an increased prevalence of disinformation through social media platforms, aimed at dismissing accounts of grave human rights violations during martial law. 

In the lead-up to the election, Amnesty International called on all candidates to put human rights front and centre in their campaigns after six years of a murderous “war on drugs” and the rise in impunity for these and other human rights violations during President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.