Police violence in Philippines

Brief report on the situation regarding police violence in Philippines based on the field experience of the street educators.

For decades, Virlanie Foundation have worked in the suburbs of Manila as Street Educators under its Street Based Program – a Mobile School unit. And for years the Team have heard several stories of maltreatment against street children at the hands of the police. Be it “a police officer from Paco [a district in Manila] who used street children to commit crimes like stealing,” or officers who use “excessive force” when apprehending children in street situations (CISS). These law enforcers “tend to view CISS as delinquents or criminals rather than victims or children in need of protection,” Our Team also added, an article published by Father Shay Cullen, founder of PREDA Foundation, in 2021 writes, “The neighborhood informal police (barangay tanod) see the street children as pests, thieves and potential criminals. They harass, arrest and jail them in youth detention centers to await trial.” This is despite laws against illegal detention and abuse of street children and proper measures to take these children in custody already in place.

The welfare of street children was also jeopardized during the previous Duterte administration because of the former president’s “war on drugs” campaign. Owing to some police’s prejudice that most street children are either drug dealers, users, or are used by crime syndicates to do their illegal businesses, the life of CISS was placed into greater danger. They were pursued as criminals with some of them killed without due process of law. The total estimate of fatalities from the campaign ranges from 7,000 (from the Philippine National Police) to 20,000 (from human rights organizations). In 2018, two teenagers – Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman – were tortured and killed at the hands of a police who only faced conviction 4 years later. Mr. Duterte now faces potential arrest from the ICC vis-à-vis the numerous extrajudicial killings during his term.

Although the Marcos administration continues said war on drugs, it is comparatively less bloody than the previous one. So far, President Marcos Jr.’s tenure has been focusing on gathering foreign partners, agricultural stability, national defense, and management of the constant inflation. He has, however, stated during his presidential campaign that he and his running mate, Sara Duterte would push for the creation of a “text helpline” that will rescue children who are on the streets during the pandemic. “The protection of the rights and interests of children should never be compromised in whatever situation they may be in,” Marcos said.

In Manila for instance through the initiative of NGO partners and the City Social Welfare Office created the Network for Duty Bearers wherein the local police are included in the membership for them to work hand in hand with the other stakeholders in upholding the rights and protection of children in street situation wherein Manila was among with the largest number of CISS.

On the other hand, the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) as the focal agency body of the government responsible for the formulation and review of all laws, policies, plans and activities on children leads the Sub Committee on the Protection and Welfare of Children in Street Situation wherein the Philippine National Police – Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) is a member of the Committee. This Committee comprises the different government and non-government agencies working together for the welfare of the children in street situation in the country.

Involving the police in the different network and agencies working on CISS somehow will align the general expectation of providing protection to the CISS and CISS will slowly viewed them (the police force) as protector rather than being punitive.



  1. https://www.ucanews.com/news/the-philippines-throwaway-street-children/92119
  1. https://www.voanews.com/a/un-for-victims-of-philippines-war-on-drugs-justice-remains-elusive/6780138.html#:~:text=Human%20rights%20organizations%20claim%20more,by%20the %20Philippine%20National%20Police.
  2. https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs
  1. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/02/13/philippines-next-steps-icc-probe-duterte-era-killings
  1. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/nation/817109/bongbong-sara-want-helpline-that-will-rescue-street-children-amid-pandemic/story/
  2. Documentary « We hold the line” de Marc Wiese, 2020.