A Philippine legal order that is formed by the needs of a Filipino people well-informed.

The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) – Philippines began with a Freedom of Expression mandate and has since expanded to a broader human rights and public interest advocacy. CenterLaw represents pro bono indigent and marginalized groups, as well as victims of human right violations.


A Philippine legal order that is well-informed and formed by the needs of every Filipino.


A Philippine legal order that incorporates and respects international legal standards.

CenterLaw began as an NGO with a mandate on Freedom of Expression, and has since expanded to a broader human rights and public interest advocacy. CenterLaw represents pro bono indigent and marginalized groups, as well as victims of human right violations.

In the two decades of its service in the fields of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, CenterLaw has taken on both low-profile and high-interest cases.

Maguindanao Massacre

CenterLaw represented the heirs of 19 victims of the massacre at Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, actively participating in the criminal cases filed against the 197 accused. CenterLaw served as a private prosecutor in the case of People vs. Andal Ampatuan, Jr., et al. (the Maguindanao massacre case), and was able to secure a favorable Supreme Court decision dismissing the petition and upholding the Department of Justice resolution finding probable cause against the Petitioner as an accused.

CenterLaw also filed:

  • Administrative cases for the dismissal from service of the police officers involved in the massacre and other cases against public and private individuals who had various forms of participation in the massacre;
  • Criminal charges against military officers who refused to provide security to the massacre victims notwithstanding their prior possession of intelligence information that pointed to a planned massacre;
  • Complaints for graft and corruption and plunder against the public officials involved in the massacre; and
  • Request for investigation with the anti-money laundering council.

The Philippine Drug War

CenterLaw has also obtained a permanent protection order for Mr. Efren Morillo, a Tokhang survivor, as well as the families of his slain companions from Payatas, Quezon City.

CenterLaw is working with the San Andres Bukid community to obtain reliefs before the courts (Daño v. Philippine National Police, G.R. No. 234484, 2 April 2019)  under the writ of amparo, in relation to the atrocities committed under the War on Drugs by the Duterte administration. In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the Philippine National Police to turnover the official documents on all of the drug-related killings to the Petitioners.

Freedom of Expression

CenterLaw represents Dr. Patty Ortega, wife of slain journalist and environment advocate Dr. Gerry Ortega, who spoke out against corruption involving the Malampaya Natural Gas Project. CenterLaw has been instrumental in securing evidence and witnesses for the case, and has assisted Dr. Patty Ortega through the preliminary investigation of the case.

CenterLaw has been giving libel defense to The Daily Tribune, the recognized leading opposition broadsheet, which is currently facing no less than 15 separate libel suits filed during Mrs. Arroyo’s administration.

CenterLaw also handles a class action suit filed by Philippine journalists against Mike Arroyo, the husband of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, alleging that his filing of an unprecedented 45 libel cases against journalists is both an abuse of right and a suppression of freedom of the press.

CenterLaw achieved victory in the realm of free speech through the Supreme Court ruling in G.R. No. 175241 IBP and Butuyan vs. Manila Mayor Lito Atienza on 24 February 2010, which has been described as “the single most important holding of the Supreme Court in recent years on the issue of free expression and peaceful public assembly for redress of grievances… because on the basis of this ruling, henceforth, local chief executives cannot anymore deny applications for permits to rally without any showing that there is a clear and present danger to society warranting denial of such applications.”


CenterLaw has successfully filed Petitions for the Writ of Amparo before the Philippines Supreme Court. Through these efforts, CenterLaw has obtained the protective writ against red-tagging and the drug war in order  to safeguard the right to life, liberty, and security of the human rights advocates it represents.

CenterLaw has also filed a challenge on the constitutionality of the Philippine Anti-Terror legislation (CenterLaw v. Senate of the Philippines, G.R. No. 252905, 7 December 2021), where the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions declared as violative of free speech, expression, and due process.

Grassroots Advocacy

In addition, CenterLaw also conducts training seminars on a variety of issues, among these:

A nationwide series of trainings on the investigation and prosecution of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture (2007-2009);

The 2nd Southeast Asia Media Legal Defence Network Training seminar (October 2009); and

A capacity-building training on freedom of expression for Lawyers and journalists from Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Where domestic courts prove ineffectual, CenterLaw also avails of international remedies for the promotion of human rights, humanitarian law, and freedom of expression. CenterLaw has filed cases before the UN Human Rights Committee and the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Committee on Human Rights, and coordinates with international accountability mechanisms around the globe.

Read on CenterLaw’s advocacy cases in detail here.

Strategic Litigation and Movement Lawyering

The right to a remedy is fundamental in Philippine legal order. CenterLaw assists communities access to legal and meta-legal mechanisms for justice and accountability.

Paralegal Training

CenterLaw hosts information seminars on the exercise of fundamental rights. To educate is to empower.

Legal Research & Policy Campaigns

CenterLaw produces actionable research proactively communicated with law makers, thought leaders, and the international community in order to advance human rights compliance and the development of international law.




Corporate Secretary

Executive Director

Bertha Alumnx

Bertha Fellow

Join our team

In your two-year fellowship, you will meet CenterLaw’s partner communities and have the opportunity to work on CenterLaw’s domestic and international cases. You will be under the mentorship of CenterLaw’s senior lawyers and Bertha Justice Alumnx. You will also learn from other Bertha Justice Fellows all around the globe through community exchanges, working groups, and conversations around movement lawyering on pressing human rights issues such as climate, accountability, and promotion of socio-economic rights, among others.

More on the Bertha Foundation Justice Initiative here.

If interested, send us your CV and cover letter to our email.

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