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Date Posted: 03:29:06 02/28/06 Tue
Author: Amanda Abrams
Subject: Philippines - background on media, civic freedoms

Current Challenges to Democracy in Philippines Forecast by Freedom House

February 27, 2006 - In light of the declaration of a state of emergency by Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Freedom House is making available background reports on governance and the state of political and civic freedoms in the country.

Foreshadowing the current challenges that Arroyo's emergency rule presents, Freedom House recently lowered its assessment of political and civil liberties in the Philippines from "Free," in 2004, to "Partly Free," in 2005. Analysts for the organization's annual survey, Freedom in the World, noted in 2005 the existence of credible allegations of massive electoral fraud, the government's intimidation of the political opposition, and pervasive corruption.

"President Arroyo's emergency decree is a major escalation of the repression of dissenting voices that's been growing in the Philippines over the past two years," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. "The raiding of opposition newspapers, banning of public demonstrations and suspension of the rule of law obviously brings into question the democratic character of the Arroyo administration. Challenges are real, but need to be managed with a democratic constitutional process."

President Arroyo imposed a state of emergency on February 24, declaring it the necessary result of an alleged coup attempt by discontented members of the military and opposition. The decree, which gives Arroyo sweeping powers to make arrests without a warrant, ban demonstrations, and take over facilities, came on the twentieth anniversary of the "People Power" movement that drove Ferdinand Marcos from power and promised a new era in Philippine history.

Freedom in the World this year gave the Philippines a 3 for political rights and a 3 for civil liberties; on a scale of 1 to 7, 1 is ranked the highest. Another Freedom House publication, Freedom of the Press, ranked the Philippines as having a "Partly Free" environment for the media and noted that the country is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work.

Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in the Philippines since 1972 and press freedoms since 1980.

Additional information about the Philippines is available online at:

Freedom in the World 2005: The Philippines

Freedom of the Press 2005: The Philippines

Countries at the Crossroads 2005: The Philippines

Amanda Abrams
Communications Officer
Freedom House
1301 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 747-7035 (w)
(919) 491-2798 (c)
www.freedomhouse.org

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