Report: Philippines on downward trend in upholding freedom due to war on drugs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines' rating on civil liberties slipped due to alleged extrajudicial killings in the war against illegal drugs, a U.S. non-government organization said.

"Philippines received a downward trend arrow due to the thousands of extrajudicial killings carried out as part of newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, as well as assassinations and threats against civil society activists," Freedom House said in its Freedom of the World 2017 report obtained Thursday.

The group said President Rodrigo Duterte "may continue his extreme policies with strong parliamentary backing" and that his "aggressive public admonitions of his critics contributed to a climate of fear among activists in the country."

The report said that in 2016, the Philippines's score dropped by two points to 63 out of 100 to retain its "Partly Free" status from the previous year.

The drop was attributed to a loss of one point each in civil liberties, particularly in the "Associational and Organizational Rights" category, which pertains to freedom to assemble and to form trade unions, and the "Rule of Law" category, which pertains to the independence of the judiciary, the lawful handling of civil and criminal cases and equality under the law.

The report was written before Duterte on Monday suspended police involvement in his six-month war on drugs after rogue cops were charged in the kidnapping and killing of a South Korean businessman in a purported drug operation.

Read: War on drugs suspended, takes back seat in war against rogue cops

The report looks at how 195 countries and 15 territories uphold political rights and civil liberties like the electoral process, freedom of expression and the press, the rule of law, and human rights.

Each nation or territory in the report is rated between zero and four points in 25 indicators for a maximum possible score of 100, which signifies the highest level of freedom. This score determines the rating for political rights and civil liberties.

Other countries that were given a downward trend outlook are China, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Poland, South Sudan, Turkey and Zambia.

What is Freedom House?

According to its website, Freedom House is "an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world."

It also said it "advocate(s) for U.S. leadership and collaboration with like-minded governments to vigorously oppose dictators and oppression."

Its 2015 financial report shows that it received nearly 87 percent of its funding from the U.S. government.

Its annual Freedom of the World report has been published since 1973 and has become, according to Freedom House, "the most widely read and cited report of its kind, used on a regular basis by policymakers, journalists, academics, activists, and many others."

"No extrajudicial killings"

The government has repeatedly denied that the deaths are state-sanctioned, and proof of this has yet to be presented by critics.

Read: Abella: PNP Chief's apology for drug war deaths is not admission of murder

In addition, a hearing by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2016 found no evidence of extrajudicial killings in the country.

Read: Senate report: No 'DDS,' no Duterte hand in killings

Human rights group Amnesty International also released a report this week detailing how police officers were allegedly being paid up to ₱15,000 for every drug suspect they kill. AI says it has recorded more than 7,000 drug-related killings.

Read: War vs. poor: Police paid per drug killing – Amnesty International

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has a tally of 2,551 alleged drug suspects killed, and nearly 53,000 arrests of drug personalities from July 1, 2016 to January 30.

Rise of populism

The situation in the Philippines forms part of the "astonishing gains" by populist and nationalist politics in democratic states around the world, such as the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Britain's vote to leave the European Union and "stunning displays of hubris and hostility" by Russia, Freedom House said in its report.

"All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century—rooted in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law—will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom, and prosperity," it said.

Meanwhile in the U.S., President Trump has, among others, issued orders in his first two weeks of office to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and ban nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. in a bid to protect against terrorist threats.

Read: Trump's immigration ban sends shockwaves