Philippines Religion

Freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution. Most Filipinos are Christians, most of whom are Catholics. In the south there is a Muslim minority, moros.

Until the 1970s, the Catholic Church usually had close ties to the sitting regime. However, the Church strongly criticized the exception laws introduced by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and played a crucial role when Corazon Aquino took power in 1986. It also played an important role in the demonstrations that led to the fall of Joseph Estrada in 2001 (see Modern History). The church was also active in the fight against the death penalty, but it has long opposed a new law that makes contraceptives legal. Today, the church contains both radical and conservative groups. Gaudencio Borbón Rosales, who took over as Archbishop in 2003, has long held a lower profile in political matters than Representative Jaime Sin. However, the Catholic Church is one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s leading critics, not least in terms of human rights violations in connection with the government’s “war on drugs” (see Current Policy). This has led to Duterte raising the tone of the church and making statements aimed at undermining its influence.

Philippines Population Forecast

There are a number of Protestant churches which have a relatively large influence. In 1902, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also known as the Aglipayan Church, broke away from the Catholic Church in order to ensure that the Filipinos had control over their own religious institutions. Iglesia ni Christo is a native Protestant church with an authoritarian organization that says no to marriage between people of different faiths and tells their members how to vote. Conservative Protestant churches of American origin have grown rapidly since the 1990s.

Most Muslims belong to the Sunni direction, but there is also a smaller group belonging to the Shia. Most Muslims are in Mindanao and the Sulu Islands, but more and more people live in the Manila area or in the city of Cebu on the island of the same name. Since the 1970s, more than 200,000 Christian Filipinos are estimated to have converted to Islam. Many of them work or have worked in the countries around the Persian Gulf and are usually called Balik Islam. It varies between different groups how strict religious rules are followed. Qur’anic schools are allowed. In some areas where Muslims are the majority, Sharia law is applied when it comes to family law.

Muslim leaders claim that Muslims are financially discriminated against and Christian attempts to carry out missionary activities are seen as part of a general repression. However, there are many examples of ecumenical cooperation between Christians and Muslims. In, for example, trade unions and human rights organizations, it is common for members to come from different faiths.

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Philippines, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.

Population distribution

Most of the population lives in the plains and hill countries, especially in the central plains of Luzon. The country is densely populated. Population growth is very high at 2.3% per year. Urbanization processes lead to urban growth. Not only is the capital region of Manila growing very quickly, the proportion of the population living in urban areas is also rising steadily in other regions. There is a rural-urban movement across the country. If the population continues to grow, the population of the Philippines would rise to 120 million people by 2020. However, government programs to reduce the birth rate are met with opposition from the Catholic Church, which is still influential in the state.


The Philippines was a Spanish colony for centuries. During this time the residents were Christianized, so that 90% of the population are still Christians today. The country thus occupies a special position in the Far East. About 84% are Catholics, 4% Protestants. A large non-Christian religious community are the Muslims with 5% of the population. Minorities are the Buddhists and followers of animistic religions.



At least 50 dead in connection with typhoon

December 26

At least 50 people are killed in connection with the typhoon Phanfone moving across the central parts of the Philippines. A number of buildings are also being destroyed on the island of Visaya due to heavy rainfall and winds. The death toll may rise as more people are missing. The Philippines was hit by 21 cyclones in 2019, of which Phanfone is the one that caused the most deaths during the year.

28 sentenced to life imprisonment for massacre in 2009

December 19

28 people, including several members of the Ampatuan clan from Maguindanao province in Mindanao, are slain for the 57 people massacre, of which 32 are journalists and other media workers, 2009. All, including Andal Ampatuan Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan and Sajid Islam, who have planned the deed, sentenced to life imprisonment. However, several members of Ampatuan are acquitted, but some 80 suspected criminals are still on the loose. The main brain behind the death of Andal Ampatuan Sr died in cancer in 2015. Some 100 people must have participated in the ambush against the consequence that was on the way to register Esmael Mangudadatu as a candidate in the governor’s election in Maguindanao. His wife, two sisters and several other relatives belong to those killed. Three witnesses have been killed pending the legal process and lawyers representing the victims’ relatives have been subjected to death threats or offered large sums to leave the assignment. At the time of the massacre, the Ampatuan clan had dominated politics in Maguindanao Province for many years, and had good contacts within national politics, including with then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Esmael Mangudadatu won the governorship election in 2010 and remained in the post until May this year. He also belongs to an influential clan who had previously had close ties to the Ampatuan clan. Esmael Mangudadatu won the governorship election in 2010 and remained in the post until May this year. He also belongs to an influential clan who had previously had close ties to the Ampatuan clan. Esmael Mangudadatu won the governorship election in 2010 and remained in the post until May this year. He also belongs to an influential clan who had previously had close ties to the Ampatuan clan.

60,000 homeless after torrents

December 6

Heavy downpours lead to flooding in the northern Philippines. Over 60,000 people are forced to flee their homes. Several roads become impassable after landslides, which leads to villages being isolated.


Duterte dismisses Robredo from the anti-drug authority

November 24

Vice President Leni Robredo does not stay on the post at the ICAD anti-drug authority for a long time. Already on November 24, she is dismissed by President Rodrigo Duterte, barely three weeks after her appointment. Probably, her promises to reform the work and end the “meaningless killing” became too much for the president. Robredo also had a meeting with the US embassy and with drug experts from the UN. Several evaluators believe that the intention has always been that Robredo would fail with the task. The decision to dismiss her is announced via media.

Duterte comments on his health problems

November 18

President Rodrigo Duterte reappears talking about his health problems and says that age is now taking its toll. This has happened since the 74-year-old president has not appeared in public for two weeks. In October, he had to cancel a state visit to Japan due to severe back pain, following injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. In October, he also revealed that he was suffering from a chronic muscle disease (see October 2019).

Vice President Robredo is given a new role in the anti-drug work

November 6

Vice President Leni Robredo has agreed to participate in the leadership of the government’s “war on drugs”. She has long been one of the main critics of the campaign, which is estimated to have cost thousands of lives. She will now lead the work of the anti-drug authority ICAD together with Aaron Aquino. Robredo now says that she will use her new powers to save lives, and that Duterte and the rest of the government are well aware of what opinions she has and that she will allow the UN to investigate allegations of human rights violations that may have been committed, something Duterte with force has resisted. However, she emphasizes that she does not know what motives the president has for giving her the job. Among her followers are warnings that she may be appointed scapegoat if she fails in the task. The Vice President is appointed separately from the President and Robredo and Duterte were already separate camps from the beginning. Robredo has not participated in government work since the end of 2016.


Duterte suffers from chronic muscle disease

October 7

President Rodrigo Duterte suffers from myastenia gravis (MG) an unusual autoimmune neuromuscular disease (ocular myasthenia). He tells that to Filipino migrants on a visit to Russia. The president has also been open about his health problems in the past and has said that he may not be able to remain as president for the term of office (it will expire in 2022).


Global Witness: violence against activists is increasing

September 23

The number of murders of environmental activists and people working to protect land and indigenous rights against forest and mining companies and plantation owners with ties to multinational food giants has increased significantly in the Philippines since Rodrigo Duterte came to power in June 2016. At least 30 people were murdered in 2018, according to a report from the organization Global Witness. 113 people have been murdered since the summer of 2016. Global Witness believes that the climate created by the president’s “war on drugs”, where almost no one is being punished for murder and other abuses, has contributed to the development.

The Philippines stops aid talks with 18 countries

September 22

The Philippines stops all calls for loans or assistance from the 18 countries that in July supported the UN Human Rights Council’s proposal that the UN investigate the serious abuses committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs (see July 2019). The resolution came on the initiative of Iceland. Other countries that supported the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

Mass vaccination against polio begins

September 19

One million Filipino children under five will be vaccinated against polo. It happens after a three-year-old girl gets sick in polio, the first case of the disease at 19 years. Efforts are already underway to prevent the spread of dengue fever and measles that have required at least a thousand lives since the beginning of the year. Most who have died are children.

A death in suicide attack

September 8

A suicide bomber is killed in an attack outside a military location on the island of Jolo, which does not require any other casualties. It is unclear what background a woman who performed the act has. Authorities suspect that the attack was carried out by a faction of Islamist group Abu Sayyaf led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is said to be the Islamic State’s (IS) foremost name in the Philippines. The day before, eight people were injured in another attack in the predominantly Christian city of Isulan, an act that IS said to have carried out, probably in collaboration with an outbreak group from the Muslim separatist group Biff.

UN Human Rights Council not welcomed in the Philippines

11 September

Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin says the Philippines will not allow the UN Human Rights Council to send personnel to the country to investigate the abuses that have occurred as part of the country’s war on drugs (see July 11, 2019). He accuses the council of having prejudiced opinions about what has happened.

The disarmament of Milf begins

September 7

The disarmament of the Muslim separatist group Milf begins, with just over a thousand soldiers giving away 940 weapons to the new independent disarmament commission, IBD, which, according to the Rappler online newspaper, consists of Turkey’s ambassador, delegates from Norway and Brunei as well as four local experts appointed by the government and Milf. This is the first step for a total disarmament of the approximately 40,000 Milf rebels to be completed in March 2020. At the same time, the separatist movement will be transformed into a political party.

Duterte demands that 1,700 released prisoners be returned

September 4th

President Rodrigo Duterte demands that 1,700 prisoners released with reference to good behavior, according to a law from 2014, be returned to prison. According to Duterte, they now have 15 days to stand up to the authorities, otherwise they will be considered escapes. He also promises a reward of one million pesos (about $ 19,000) to those who ensure that prisoners who do not set themselves up are taken prisoner or killed. Duterte also calls on the head of the country’s prisons to resign. The law has been questioned on the grounds that a former mayor who in 1993 raped and killed two students could be covered by it.


Duterte is pressed to mark China

August 30th

President Rodrigo Duterte visits China. Before the visit, the Philippine president has been pressured at home to mark China in the countries dispute over a number of islands in the South China Sea. Tensions between the countries rose in June 2019 after a Philippine fishing boat sank after a collision with a Chinese trawler in the disputed waters. China still rejects the ruling in the UN Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague in July 2016, stating that the Chinese claims in the area lack “legal basis”, and is now responding to Duterte’s plea that Beijing does not intend to agree to any negotiations. According to a Filipino assessor, Duterte acts primarily to appease the home opinion.


New team against sexual harassment

July 15

President Rodriogo Duterte has signed a law against sexual harassment in public environments, workplaces, schools, public transport and online. Anyone who violates the rules can be fined up to the equivalent of $ 7,000. The signing took place as early as April, but it is only now that the new law is published. At the same time, it is pointed out from several quarters that the President himself has repeatedly committed such harassment.

The UN will investigate the drug war in the Philippines

July 11

The UN Human Rights Council approves a resolution by a small marginto launch an investigation into the abuses that occurred as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. It will primarily address issues of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and disappearances. 18 countries voted for the resolution, 14 voted against (including China) and 15 countries abstained. The Philippine government criticizes the decision and describes it as a travesty of justice. According to official Philippine figures, about 6,600 drug addicts and drug addicts have been killed since Duterte came to power in June 2016, while activists talk of up to 27,000 dead. Police in the Philippines claim they shot in self-defense. In early July, a three-year-old girl was shot to death in connection with a drug case, which made her the youngest victim to date.

Amnesty calls on the UN to investigate Duterte’s war on drugs

July 8

Amnesty calls in a report, They Just Kill, the UN Human Rights Council, to investigate whether the abuses committed in the course of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs are to be considered a crime against humanity. According to human rights organizations, at least 6,000 people have been killed by the police as a result of this, most of them poor Filipinos. But several groups believe that the victims are significantly more than that. The government, for its part, says that 5,300 people have died. One of the most vulnerable areas, according to Amnesty, is the Bulacan province north of the capital Manila, where the violence escalated after several police officers accused of abuse were moved there.


At least five dead in military base attacks

June 28

At least five people, including three soldiers, are killed in an attack on a military base at Jolo in the southern Philippines, in what the military says is a suicide bombing, which in this case is the first such in the country carried out by a Filipino. The Islamic State (IS) is taking on the attack. The 23-year-old who is suspected to have carried out the attack must have previously had contacts with the militant Islamist group Abu Sayyaf.

UN experts want an international investigation into MR crimes under Duterte

7 June

UN human rights experts want an international investigation into the extrajudicial executions that took place as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. The eleven independent experts also accuse Duterte of harassing and exerting pressure on human rights activists and judges in the Supreme Court. They want the issue raised when the UN Human Rights Council meets on June 24.


Quarrel about garbage between the Philippines and Canada

May 16

A garbage dispute has erupted between the Philippines and Canada, leading Manila to call her ambassador. The problems then arose between a Canadian company between 2013 and 2014 shipped 100 containers of rotting waste by boat to the Philippines. According to the label, they should have contained plastic material for recycling. The Philippine government has demanded that the waste be returned to Canada by May 15. But that has not happened. The Canadian government is now acting to end the dispute, which has been going on for several years, and the waste (1,500 tonnes) will now be shipped to Vancouver and taken care of there.

Success for Duterte in the midterm elections

May 13th

The midterm elections in the Philippines will be a success for President Duterte and his allies who gain control of both chambers of Congress. Duterte faithful forces controlled the House of Representatives even before the election, but now also gain a majority in the Senate. Of the twelve mandates that are at stake, they win nine, while three mandates go to independent candidates. This means that the opposition now only has four seats in the Senate and will probably not be able to initiate any major scrutiny by the president and the government, which will also make it easier to pass new laws and amend the constitution. It is speculated that Duterte is seeking to serve another term, which the current constitution does not allow. Duterte-faithful politicians have promised during the election campaign to lower the age of criminality to twelve years and to impose the death penalty for drug smuggling. The election also applies to 200 mayors and governors. Among the winners there is the president’s daughter Sara, who is re-elected as mayor of Davao. Her brother Paolo wins a seat in the House of Representatives.


New species of human discovery

April 10

Remains of an unknown human prehistoric creature, Homo luzonensis, have been found on the island of Luzon. What you have found are some teeth, fingers and toes and a bit of a femur. The bone remnants are believed to be 50,000 years old. The findings indicate that it is about relatively small human beings of 120 centimeters. It is too early to say if there is any relationship between Homo luzonensis and Homo floresiensis, a type of dwarf man believed to have lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia until 12,000 years ago. In 2003, the first remains of a woman were found on Flores since then another 10 individuals have been found.

Filipinos send home $ 34 billion

April 9

Referrals from Filipinos working abroad totaled $ 34 billion in 2018, according to new figures from the World Bank. It was the highest sum so far, but it is pointed out that referrals are growing slower than before, much because less money is being sent from the states around the Persian Gulf.

  • April 1st

President Duterte orders a review of all government contracts with both domestic and international companies. The purpose is to find out if they are fair to the Filipinos and if they follow the country’s constitution. All projects that are clear that they are free from corruption will be accelerated.


Police shoot to death “suspected Communist rebels” on Negros

March 31st

Philippine police say they shot dead 14 suspected Communist rebels as they searched for illegal weapons on the island of Negros. Human rights organizations and peasant groups believe that all those killed were defenseless peasants, many of them older, who demanded their right to land. Information they should have received from witnesses on the spot. The shootings take place at three different locations in the sugar district of Negros. The area is inhabited by some of the country’s wealthiest landowners, but also many of the poorest rural workers in the Philippines. According to the police, the men had shot at the police units and they had answered the fire. At least twelve people must also have been arrested. About one-fifth of the population of the Philippines is farmers who live on $ 1 to $ 2 a day.

The harassment against Rappler continues

March 29th

Maria Ressa, head of the Rappler news site, is arrested again at the airport in Manila. However, she is released to the bail a few hours later. She is now charged with violating the rules that the media company may not have foreign owners. If convicted, she risks being sentenced to up to ten years in prison. Ressa says that she is treated as if she were a criminal, while the only thing she has done is to conduct independent journalism. Several other legal proceedings are ongoing against Ressa, but Rapler continues to publish news online.

The Philippines formally leaves the ICC

March 17

The Philippines officially leaves the ICC. This has happened since the Supreme Court has not agreed to rescind President Duterte’s decision that the country should withdraw from the court. The Philippines thus becomes the second country to leave the ICC. Previously, Burundi has done the same thing in 2017. Duterte made his decision after ICC 2018 initiated a preliminary investigation of the abuses that occurred as part of his war on the drugs. Philippine police say they have killed nearly 5,200 people who resisted in connection with the arrests, but according to human rights organizations, the number of casualties is more than three times as many.


Milf leader new interim leader in Bangsamoro

February 22

The members of the new transition board in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao are joining, with Milf’s Murad Ebrahim as interim leader. President Duterte attends the ceremony.

Rappler’s Maria Ressa grips

February 13

Maria Ressa, head of the Rappler news site, is being arrested by the Justice Department for “cyber defamation”. If convicted, she risks being sentenced to twelve years in prison. Ressa claims that both this and other charges against her are politically motivated. The charges relate to an article that was published in 2012 about the businessman Wilfredo Keng’s contacts with a senior judge. The CPJ press charges the Philippine authorities for harassing Ressa and urging them to immediately release the Rappler journalist. The day after, Ressa is released to the castle.


Two dead in grenade attack against mosque

30th of January

At least two people are killed in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga City on the island of Mindanao in the south. It is speculated as to whether the deed is a revenge for the attacks on a church on the island of Jolo a few days earlier.

20 dead in terror against church at Jolo

January 26

20 people are killed and about 100 injured in an attack on a Catholic church on Jolo, one of the Sulu islands in the south. An explosive charge explodes during the high mass itself, another as soldiers rush to rescue the victims. The Islamic State (IS) is taking the deed, but the authorities suspect that “Ajang-Ajang” a faction of militant Islamist group Abu Sayyaf carried out the attack. “Ajang-Ajang” is considered pro-IS and is led by the father-in-law of Amin Baco who was involved in the five-month siege of Marawi 2017 (see May-October 2017). Police suspect the act was done to avenge Abu Sayyaf members killed by the military. Others link the act to the referendum on a self-governing region, Bangsamoro, earlier that week, and suspicions that Abu Sayyaf leaders fear losing in influence to Milf.

Record number of tourists 2018

January 24th

A record number of foreign tourists, over 7 million, visited the Philippines in 2018, according to official figures. This is despite the fact that one of the country’s main attractions, the island of Boracay, has been closed to visitors for much of the year. Instead, many tourists have applied to the islands of Palawan and Siargao. Of the visitors, 1.6 million came from South Korea, 1.3 million from China and 1 million from the United States.

The House of Representatives votes to lower the penal age to 12 years

January 23

The House of Representatives approves a bill that allows 12-year-olds to be prosecuted. For a first step, MEPs had rejected the proposal, which is part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. It provides that it becomes “mandatory” for persons between the ages of 12 and 18 who commit murder, rape, arson and car theft to serve punishment at special youth institutions. If they do not behave, they should be able to be transferred to a regular prison when they are 18 years old. According to the president, the drug gang is using children to deliver drugs because, as the laws appear today, they cannot be punished for these crimes. And that some of them are as young as six. In order to enter into force, the bill must also be adopted by the Senate, where many oppose a reduction in the age of criminality.

Yes to new autonomous region of Mindanao

January 21st

A clear majority of voters, 85 percent, in the Muslim-dominated area of ​​Mindanao vote to form a self-governing Bangsamoro (BARRM) region (Manila, however, retains control of defense, security and foreign policy as well as monetary policy). In the Sulu Islands, however, a small majority of voters vote no to Bangsamoro. The election is being monitored by some 20,000 police and soldiers. A second referendum will be held in Lanao del Norte, which also has a significant Muslim population on February 6, when voters there will decide whether to join BARMM or not.

Philippines Religion

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