Raise happiness; lessen impunity

Raise happiness. “Towards a better society” was the theme of the well-attended 2017 conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS) at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, on Sept. 27-30. It had 5 invited plenary lectures and some 300 presentations, in as many as 6 simultaneous sessions, of scholarly research on quality of life (QOL) and its relevance for policymaking.

QOL is a highly complex, multidimensional, concept. It includes both positive and negative aspects of wellbeing and happiness. “Understanding high happiness in Latin America: there is more to life than income” was the paper of ISQOLS president Mariano Rojas, an economist from Costa Rica.

Social Weather Stations, a regular ISQOLS participant, had two papers: “Monitoring quality of governance in the Philippines from the public’s lens, 1986-2016” and “Public opinion of Filipinos on the Philippine drug war.” (The latter will be presented by Vlad Licudine at a public seminar at the SWS Knowledge Center on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m.; those interested should contact Malou “Che” Tabor at 02-924-4465 ext. 501 or at

In his lecture, Prof. Lord Richard Layard, author of “Happiness—Lessons from a New Science” (2005), maintained that a society should be judged by its people’s satisfaction with life as a whole. Subjective, or self-reported, experience is an objective phenomenon; it correlates with electrical activity in relevant areas of the brain.

Layard attributes variation in the life-satisfaction of individual adults to mental health (19 percent), having a life partner (11 percent), physical health (10 percent), income (9 percent), noncriminality (6 percent), employment (6 percent), and education (2 percent). Two-thirds explainability is adequate, to me.

The next ISQOLS conference will be in Hong Kong, on June 14-16, 2018, at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Those who wish to participate should submit their abstracts not later than Nov. 30, 2017.

Lessen impunity. A new Global Impunity Index (GII) for 2017 has drawn much attention since it ranks the Philippines as the worst among 69 countries having data.

In structural (de jure) terms the Philippines has the worst impunity of the security system and the second-worst (after Nicaragua) impunity of the justice system. In functional (de facto) terms, on the other hand, our security and justice systems are not too badly ranked. In terms of human rights, the Philippines is supposed to be third-worst after Mexico and India, though on this matter the methodology is not well-explained.

Impunity is a legitimate component of QOL since it falls under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 16: to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. (“Remember the future,” Opinion, 1/20/15.)

The GII is produced by the University of the Americas at Puebla (in Mexico), through its Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice. It is mainly based on data at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime: law enforcement personnel, and judges, per 100,000 inhabitants; prisoners, and prison staff, divided by penitentiary capacity; ratio of prison staff to prisoners; individuals brought to court divided by the number that had formal contact with police, and divided by the number of prosecutors; percentage detained without judgment; prisoners divided by the number convicted; prisoners for homicide divided by the overall number of homicides; individuals brought to court divided by the overall number of judges.

The GII report specifically decries China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa for failing to provide UNODC with data. It calls this statistical impunity.

The GII’s effort to measure impunity appears legitimate, scientific, and not part of some anti-Duterte conspiracy. The administration’s knee-jerk reaction to it is uncalled for. Lessening impunity should be part of the move toward a better society.