Cause for alarm (1) | Inquirer Opinion
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
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Cause for alarm (1)

The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law around the world. Annually, it publishes its Rule of Law Index, which it asserts is the world’s leading source for original data on the rule of law, and which, as of 2016, covers 113 countries—the Philippines is one—and jurisdictions, relying on more than 110,000 household surveys and 3,000 expert surveys “to measure how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide.”

Basic translation: The WJP does not deal in fake news, Reader. It’s the real deal. So pay close attention, please. It measures the performance of countries using 44 indicators across eight primary rule of law factors, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional and income peers: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

And why should this be of interest to us? Because historical and empirical evidence show us that effective rule of law “reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease and protects people from injustices large and small. It is the foundation for communities of peace, opportunity, and equity—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.” Basic translation: Without rule of law (which is not the same as rule by law, but more about this later), all our dreams for growth and development will amount to zilch.

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From “What is the Rule of Law, and Why is It so Important?” (edited by Silkenat, Barenboim and Hickey) comes this quote: “Those nations where the rule of law is weak—where rules exist but are not enforced or are malleable—tend to end up in a morass of lawlessness and corruption…. Societies that enjoy the rule of law are vastly better situated than those that do not. This makes the real rule of law (or its absence) the central measure dividing good from bad government everywhere.”

But what is the rule of law? The definition I like best is from MNS Sellers: The rule of law is the English translation of the Latin phrase “imperium legum”—more literally, “the empire of laws and not of men.” It signifies “the subordination of arbitrary power and the will of public officials as much as possible to the guidance of laws made and enforced to serve their proper purpose, which is the public good (‘res publica’) of the community as a whole. When positive laws or their interpretation or enforcement serve other purposes, there is no rule of law, in its fullest sense, but rather ‘rule by law’—mere legalism—in service of arbitrary power.”

So now that we have defined the rule of law and explained why it is so important, let us now go back to the WJP’s Rule of Law Index and see how we have been doing as far as it is concerned. The 2017-2018 results came out some time ago, but for some reason or another, they did not strike alarm bells for us—which in itself is cause for concern. This column is in the nature of a second attempt at getting you, Reader, to sit up and take notice.

The overall Philippine score in 2017 was 0.47 (for comparison, the highest ranking countries were Denmark and Norway with 0.89). We ranked 13th out of 15 countries in East Asia and the Pacific, and our global rank was 88th out of 113 countries. We are at the bottom 25 percent in the world, and lower than 20 percent in our region.

What should have rung the alarm bells was that our global rank dropped by 18 notches from the previous year (we used to rank 70th in 2016), mainly because our overall score went down from 0.51 to 0.47.

But the worse is yet to come: I looked at where we stood in 2015, Reader. Our overall score then was 0.53, and our rank was 51st out of 102 globally (we were right in the middle) and 9th out of 15 regionally.

In other words, in terms of the rule of law, our overall score decreased by six points, and we plunged from being at the halfway mark to the bottom 25 percent globally. This in only a two-year period, three-fourths of which was under the Duterte administration. (To be continued)

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TAGS: fake news, Get Real, rule of law, World Justice Project
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