The Philippines has long been a hotbed for human rights advocacy – from the dictatorial “constitutional autocracy” of former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, to the decidedly oligarchic tendencies of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, the blatant corruption rife during the era of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the present-day strongman rule of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his drug war.
The present conditions of widespread and gross inequality and the consolidation of social, political, and economic power among the hands of a very small, yet very extremely powerful elite – and the seeming backwardness and chaos that ensues throughout Philippine society is a symptom of ongoing structural injustice.
Fortunately, the Philippines’ tradition of resistance in the form of advocacy has always been one of its strong suits – we have compiled a thorough list of human rights organizations in the Philippines that seek to change things, one at a time, and discuss what it is they actually do, as well as their advocacies, and most importantly, what YOU can do to help them: whether through volunteering, employment, or anything else in between.
Amnesty International Philippines (AI)
Amnesty International has a very strong presence operating in the Philippines out of its seat in the capital, Manila. Its flagship role in the world, and not least in the Philippines, partnered with its aggressive recruitment strategies in colleges and universities throughout the nation make it a formidable force in Philippine society – and has been forthcoming in its condemnation of President Duterte’s drive against illegal drugs as well as extrajudicial killings.
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
PAHRA has been one of the long-standing organizations protecting and defending human rights in the Philippines – in fact, PAHRA was founded in 1986 as a direct front against former President Marcos’s alleged human rights violations and corruption during the Martial Law administration, and maintains a strong following in the country as well as its network throughout Asia.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)
FLAG was founded in 1974 by prominent lawyers and legislators Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, and Joker Arroyo during the autocratic days of Marcos’ Martial Law administration – 43 years after its foundation as an organization offering quality legal assistance to those who cannot afford to do so, it continues to play a prominent role in promoting and defending human rights; especially for those who need it the most.
Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
PhilRights is the research and development agency of the Philippine alliance of Human Rights (PAHRA) established in 1991. Its main focus is on the development of institutional programs related to human rights policy research, education, and training.
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFIDP)
TFIDP is yet another organization founded in 1974 by Jesuit Fr. Mel Brady as a direct response to the worsening human rights conditions during the Martial Law era. Since then and until now, TFIDP has involved itself with the documentation of human rights violations and providing human rights educational training, as well as assisting political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
KARAPATAN: Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
KARAPATAN made its mark during the brutally repressive policies of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime towards leftists and communists, as well as their sympathizers. Their work on human rights research and documentation has been vital in safeguarding political freedoms – their founder and General Secretary Marie Hilao-Enriquez has represented the organization in important human rights functions all over the world.
International Peace Observers Network Philippines (IPON)
Hamburg-based IPON provides trained human rights observers from all over the world to monitor human rights situations in various countries – their most important role is to document any human rights violations that occur and to prevent any further abuses to occur simply through their presence. They play an important role in monitoring the situation in far-flung areas in the islands of Visayas and Mindanao.
Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP)
This watchdog may be rather small, but it makes up for its size with its very active role in protecting and safeguarding human rights, particularly for the many cases of assassinations of journalists, politically motivated or otherwise. Furthermore, its role in investigating and exposing activities that endanger human rights has been outstanding – and works hand in hand with Amnesty International with its research.
Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP)
NP seeks to protect individuals and civilians that are stuck in areas of armed conflict – their ongoing work in overseeing ceasfire agreements in the chaotic province of Mindanao, with its continuing disorder due to continued fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is very laudable – keeping the most vulnerable populations safe from harm.
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Founded in 1998, this organization focuses on the plight of the desaparecidos, directly tackling the problem of forced, arbitrary, involuntary, and unexplained disappearances in many Asian countries, empowering and providing assistance to families affected by such.