Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 April 2018


Consider this, Reader:

  1. Experts opine that nations where the rule of law is weak (i.e., where rules exist but are not enforced or are malleable) tend to end up in a morass of lawlessness and corruption, and that societies that enjoy the rule of law are vastly better situated than those that do not. The experts conclude that the rule of law is, therefore, the central measure that divides good from bad government everywhere.
  1. The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index shows that the Philippines has experienced a very dramatic and depressing downward slide between 2015 and 2017. And most of the blame must be borne by the Duterte administration. The year 2017 was wholly his watch, and 2016 was half his. Right?

A decrease in our overall score in the Rule of Law Index—going down from 0.53 in 2015, 0.51 in 2017, and 0.47—might not seem like much, Reader, but the overall score is a compendium of the scores in 44 indicators grouped into 8 different categories. These categories are factors in determining whether the rule of law is being observed or not. They are: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

The scores range from 0 to 1, with 1 showing strongest adherence to the rule of law.

In 2017 the Philippines suffered (I use the word deliberately) an 18-country rank drop from 2016 insofar as global ranking is concerned. That is the largest drop in rank recorded, with the second largest going to Suriname (which dropped by 10 notches). Most of the countries dropped or increased in rank by 1 or 2 notches only.

The Philippines also suffered a drop in regional rankings (East Asia and the Pacific), and a drop in the lower-middle income group rankings.

A note of comfort: It is certainly not the case that the Philippines deteriorated with respect to all the factors and all the indicators. Between 2016 and 2017, the country improved its scores in Civil Justice (from 0.45 to 0.47) and in Open Government (from 0.51 to 0.52), and maintained its score in Regulatory Enforcement (0.51). Those 0.01 improvements in scores were enough to improve the country ranking globally, regionally, and among its income peers as far as those factors were concerned. The Duterte administration must be congratulated on these factors.

The Philippines also exhibited improvements in 11 out of the 44 indicators comprising these factors and maintained its score in 4 others. Again, congratulations are in order.

However, those improvements were obviously not enough to counter the deterioration in the other 5 factors and in the other 29 indicators. The factors that showed the largest deterioration were Constraints on Government Powers, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, and Criminal Justice. These are what brought the Philippines to its knees with regard to the rule of law.

Interesting sidelights: The scores show that the ability of the legislature and the judiciary to effectively limit the government’s powers has been reduced by 6 points and 1 point, respectively. The checks and balances are thus not working.

What is more, the score in Fundamental Rights dropped by 8 points (the indicator Right to Life and Security by 14).  And absence of corruption in the police/military also dropped by 6 points.  The war on corruption is not going well.

Our lowest absolute score is in the indicator Effective Correctional System, under the factor Criminal Justice.  The score is 0.17. The second lowest absolute score is in the indicator Right to Life and Security under the factor Fundamental Rights. That score is 0.20 (dropping from 0.34)

Summary: It looks like we have given up so much (or they have been taken away): our fundamental rights, our checks and balances. Yet, according to the data, we are still losing the war on corruption, and order and security have not improved. Is it worth it?