Philippines Finds New Strength with Human Rights

Former Regional Director for the Philippines Human Rights Commission, Anita Chaunhan, teaches Filipino youth their rights at a Vocational High School.

The legacy of martial law and suppressed freedom of speech and other basic rights under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos still lives today in the island nation. The US State Department Human Rights Report of 2015 cites “significant human rights problems,” including “allegations of violence against human rights activists,” while those entrusted to protect them are themselves accused of human rights violations. The report further notes “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces and suspected vigilante groups and a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators.”

Human rights activist Anita Chaunhan is doing something about it. Former regional director of the Philippines Human Rights Commission, now executive director of Nueva Ecija Provincial Association for Human Rights Advocacy, Chaunhan found United for Human Rights online and with the assistance of UHR representative Sandra Lucas, launched a massive human rights education campaign.

Chaunhan started with the training of Human Rights Officers from the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police, the Combat Arms School and 7th Battalion Headquarters of the Philippines military, on Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island.

She also brought Youth for Human Rights to the nation’s future leaders, with workshops at universities and schools in Luzon Regions I and III.

Chaunhan then brought the Youth for Human Rights program to the Philippines National Commission on Human Rights, who endorsed the project for the whole nation, with their logo and statement now emblazoned on The Story of Human Rights and What are Human Rights? booklets: “The National Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines takes pride in working with United for Human Rights to change the course of the Philippines through human rights education.”

In coordination with the National Commission, Chaunhan established and activated Human Rights Educator Centers, opening nine as official United for Human Rights chapters in just three months.

Throughout 2015, partnering with 32 organizations and training over 14,000 human rights activists, police, military and students, Chaunhan and her team made a bold start on their journey to create a culture of human rights in the Philippines.

The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live? The Stats

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Yet:

  • 19.5 million people are currently registered as refugees based on data from the UN Refugee Agency.

  • 1.66 million people submitted applications for asylum in 2014, the most ever recorded in a single year.

  • 59.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide.

  • Europe has witnessed a large number of sea arrivals in 2014. More than 218,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2014—almost three times the previous known high of about 70,000 in 2011 during the “Arab Spring.”

  • The application for asylum rose 45 percent between 2013 to 2014, with the largest amounts coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia and Kosovo.

  • More than 600,000 people have applied for asylum in Europe in the first eight months of 2015—just shy of the previous year’s total of 662,000. This only includes those immigrants who have formally applied for asylum, more than 20 percent from Syria.


Join the international human rights movement by becoming a member of United for Human Rights. UHR assists individuals, educators, organizations and governmental bodies in all parts of the world to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.