Länderberichte und aktuelle Informationen: Philippines

Last revision: 14 Apr. 1998
14 Apr. 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in art. 2 (sect. 4) of the 1987 Constitution, which states: "The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfilment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service.". The previous constitutions of 1935 and 1973 contained similar provisions. [1]

A further legal basis for conscription is provided by sect. 51 of the National Defence Act, according to which "all Filipinos are liable to military service", and the 1991 Act Providing for the Development, Administration, Organization, Training and Maintenance and Utilization of the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines, and for Other Purposes (Act 7077/1991). [1] [3]

Conscription has never, in general, been enforced as it is considered too expensive and not needed to achieve the requisite number of recruits. There are, however, forms of compulsory military training and selective conscription. (see: military service)

Conscription is unlikely to be introduced in the future. In fact, the regular armed forces are to be reduced from 68,000 troops by 1996 to about 50,000 by 2010. At the same time the reserve forces are to be upgraded. The introduction of the 1991 Act (7077/1991) was specifically intended to expand the role of the reserve forces at times of emergency or in wartime. The military argue that paramilitary militia are cheaper and more effective than regular armed forces for counter-insurgency operations, which is relevant given the various armed resistance groups that have been operating since the 1960s. [2] [3]

Reserve forces consist mainly of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), paramilitary units comprising soldiers and volunteer reservists. (see: CAFGU recruitment)

military service

Selective conscription may take place: those having certain special skills may be called up for 18 months' military service. Such selective conscription, however, only happens rarely. [3] [4]

Act 7077/1991 provides for compulsory military training for all citizens, but in practice only certain groups are liable for military training. Basic military training is compulsory for all boys and girls at high school. Military training is compulsory for all male college and university students. This training in the ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) lasts for two years and undergoing it is a prerequisite of graduation. Those completing ROTC training are assigned as reservists.

Usually there are no reserve duties, but, for unknown reasons, in December 1997, however, the re-training of CAFGU and other reservists apparently started. [3]

Under sect. 14 of Act 7077/1991 registration for military service is compulsory for all men aged 18 to 25. In practice, this only applies to male students required to register for ROTC training. No one else needs to register for military service. [3]

postponement and exemption

Act 7077/1991 provides for postponement and exemption from military training, but it is not clear if this applies to those liable for ROTC training.

Postponement is possible for those living or working abroad, elected officials and presidential appointees, and for domestic reasons such as being the sole family breadwinner. Postponement is usually granted for two years at a time (sect. 27).

Exemption from military training is possible for members of the clergy of any religious order, police members, governors and officers of prisons and psychiatric hospitals, air and maritime pilots, navigators and merchant marine officers (sect. 15).

Exemption from registration for military service is possible for medical reasons, persons who are legally disqualified from government employment, those who are remanded in jail pending trial, those have been convicted of crimes and students (sect. 17).


Male university and college students must register for ROTC training. Not all those registered are actually enlisted into the training, selection of registered conscripts to undergo training is by ballot, which takes place annually in May. The National Defence Secretary prescribes the procedure for selection. [3]

CAFGU recruitment

The CAFGU paramilitary units were established in 1987 in accordance with the notion of a citizens' armed force expressed in the constitution. CAFGU are under military command. Their members are subject to military law and regulations, receive up to a month's military training and must wear uniforms.

Under the 1987 Constitution all former paramilitary forces were to be abolished and integrated into the regular armed forces. Paramilitary forces have existed in the Philippines since the 1950s, the Civilian Home Defence Forces (CHDF) in the 1970s being particularly notorious for their human rights violations.

According to 1987 government guidelines, recruitment into CAFGU is voluntary. However, according to the Implementing rules and regulations to Executive Order No.264, the armed forces are entitled to screen all able-bodied male citizens and train them in case the CAFGU does not have enough recruits. As CAFGU are regarded as part of the armed forces, people may get conscripted into CAFGU. In 1990 the government stated: "A citizen may be compelled to render service in the military, police or other defence forces of the government." [1]

In practice recruitment into the CAFGU is mostly on a voluntary basis and there are no recent reports of forced recruitment into CAFGU. [3].

In the early 1990s there were some reports of forced recruitment into CAFGU. People living in areas where rebel activity was suspected were forced by military authorities to join CAFGU. Those refusing to do so were apt to be accused of sympathizing with armed resistance groups, which made them liable to various forms of human rights abuse. [2]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized and there are no provisions for substitute service.

The government stated in 1990: "Substitute service or non-combatant duties may, however, be possible for conscientious objectors. (...) But this is not a guarantee that they will not fight or face combat duties in battlefields, military operations or related activities. History reveals that war is sometimes won by remnant forces, and even non-combatant troops. Hence, anyone may have to take up arms when demanded by the State or public necessity even in times of peace thereby upholding (...)" [1]

Despite this government statement, substitute service has never been available.

A 1974 Presidential Decree issued by former dictator Marcos, allowed community service as a substitute for compulsory military service, but the decree was never implemented. [3]

There are no recent known cases of people publicly stating they were conscientious objectors. [3]

In 1966 and 1978 there have been two CO cases. In the 1966 case the CO was charged with refusal to register for military training. The accused, Lagman, maintained he had no military inclinations and did not wish to kill or be killed. He also argued to stand by his constitutional rights, as the constitution mentions the duty to perform either military or civilian service. However, his case was rejected by the Supreme Court. [3]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Draft evasion is punishable under sect. 76-A of the National Defense Act, which states: "Any person failing to register for military service... or failing to appear after registering can be punished with up to six months' imprisonment or a fine. This doesn't exempt him from performing military service." [1]


It is not known how far monitoring and punishment of draft evasion takes place. [3]

4 Forced recruitment by the NPA, MNLF and MILF

Since the 1960s there have been several armed opposition groups in the Philippines.

The New People's Army (NPA), which is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been fighting a guerrilla war since 1969 but is recently on the decline. There have been various reports of forced recruitment by the NPA in areas under their control and the NPA has even recruited children. Villagers refusing to assist the NPA have sometimes been dubbed opponents of the movement and suffered human right abuse. [2] [5]

Two other main armed resistance groups are the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and its offspring MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. In recent years there have been various reports of MNLF and MILF units recruiting children. [5] [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 10,500-strong - that is, 0.15 percent of the population. [8]


[1] UN Commission on Human Rights 1991. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1989/59. United Nations, Geneva. [2] Amnesty International 1992. Philippines, the killing goes on. AI, London. [3] Regional Council on Human Rights 1998. Responses to CONCODOC enquiries. Manilla, 13 February & 23 March 1998. [4] 'Muslim rebels recruiting minors', in: Asian Defence Journal, 6/1996. [5] Adiao-Garcia, Odalie and Susan Sanchez-Calasagsag 1995. A study on child soldiers, Philippine context. ICCB-Asia. [6] Zulkarnen, Isaak 1994. 'Paramilitary forces of Southeast Asia', in: Asian Defence Journal, 2/1994. [7] Siemers, Gunter 1990. 'Die philippinischen Streitkräfte', in: Sudostasien Aktuell, March 1990/November 1990, Institut für Asienkunde, Hamburg. [8] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.