Philippines rule of law weak, but index ranking improves

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Philippines rule of law weak, but index ranking improves
From 102nd out of 139 countries last year, the Philippines improved to 97th out of 140 countries included in this year’s index released on Wednesday.
Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — Adherence to the rule of law in the Philippines remains one of the weakest in the region, although it is among the few countries that have reported improvements in the latest Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project (WJP).

From 102nd out of 139 countries last year, the Philippines improved to 97th out of 140 countries included in this year’s index released on Wednesday.

However, among the 15 countries in East Asia and the Pacific that were included in the index, the Philippines remained in 13th place, ahead only of Myanmar and Cambodia.

The index measures adherence to rule of law based on 44 indicators grouped into eight: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.

Countries get a score of 0 to 1, with 1 indicating strongest adherence to rule of law.

The Philippines scored 0.47 in the latest index, up from last year’s 0.46 and similar to those it obtained from 2017 to 2020.

The Philippines retained its scores in most indicators, with slight increases in order and security (from 0.63 to 0.66), fundamental rights (0.39 to 0.40) and criminal justice (0.31 to 0.32).

Despite the jump in the latest ranking, the Philippines is still far from the score of 0.53 that it obtained in 2015, when it placed 51st out of 103 countries.

The country continuously dropped in the rule of law index during the Duterte administration, ranking 70th out of 113 with a score of 0.51 in 2016; 88th out of 113 with a score of 0.47 in 2017/2018; 90th out of 126 with a score of 0.47 in 2019 and 91st out of 128 with a score of 0.47 in 2020.

According to WJP, more countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for the fifth consecutive year this year.

“Authoritarian trends that predate the pandemic continue to erode the rule of law,” said WJP executive director Elizabeth Andersen. “Checks on executive power are weakening and respect for human rights is falling.”

Some 61 percent of the countries included in the list showed declines in their rule of law scores, while only 39 percent improved.

The index subfactors that have declined most widely since 2015 are freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly and association, the WJP said.

Denmark topped the list with a score of 0.90, followed by Norway (0.89), Finland (0.87), Sweden (0.86), Netherlands (0.83), Germany (0.83), New Zealand (0.83), Luxembourg (0.83), Estonia (0.82) and Ireland (0.81). At the bottom of the list were Venezuela (0.26), Cambodia (0.31), Afghanistan (0.33), Congo (0.34), Haiti (0.35) Egypt (0.35), Cameroon (0.36), Nicaragua (0.36), Myanmar (0.36) and Mauritania (0.37).

Following New Zealand among those in the East Asia and the Pacific region were Australia (0.79), Japan (0.79), Singapore (0.78), South Korea (0.73), Hong Kong (0.73), Malaysia (0.57) and Mongolia (0.54).

In the bottom half were Indonesia (0.53), Thailand (0.5), Vietnam (0.49), China (0.47), Philippines (0.47), Myanmar (0.36) and Cambodia (0.31).

US judicial grant

Meanwhile, the United States government is providing P15 million for the Philippine judicial reform program, the US embassy in Manila said yesterday.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson and Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo formally launched the  new US government assistance to support ongoing judicial reform efforts.

The US State Department’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs awarded the grant to the US National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to facilitate the implementation of the Manila Justice Sector Reform Program in support of the Supreme Court’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations.

“This 18-month long program seeks to set the foundation for future judicial reforms by evaluating the existing capacity of the Philippine judiciary, supporting strategic planning and developing key performance baselines and tools for measuring success,” the embassy said in a statement. –  Pia Lee-Brago, Neil Jayson Servallos


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