OPINION: Philippine rule of law in freefall

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Apr 10 2020 11:37 PM

Five years ago, the Philippines stood 51st in the world ranking for the “Rule of Law.” That comparative view has been in dismal deterioration since then. 70th place in 2016, down to 88th in 2017-18 and 90th place in 2019. We now rank 91st place out of 128 countries! 

That is a loss of 40 points. No other country has so precipitously fallen off the level of esteem for its rule of law than the Philippines had! Let me explain and share this backgrounder with you.

Feeling the pulse of a given universe of people over a subject matter is what opinion surveys are all about.

National surveys based upon a universe composed of 130,000 households plus some 4,000 legal practitioners and pundits from 128 countries on how rule of law is experienced and perceived by the respective county’s surveyed public is what the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index is all about. 

The World Justice Project is a non-government organization devoted to the cause of advancing the rule of law worldwide. It is independent and multidisciplinary, an international civil society organization whose stated mission is “working to advance the rule of law around the world.” It was founded in 2006 and maintains its headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

Its Founder and CEO is William H. Neukom, a Stanford School of Law graduate, who worked with Microsoft for 25 years. He was also a partner in the law firm of Bill Gates’ father; once the General Manager/part-owner of the San Francisco Giants baseball team; and served as President of the American Bar Association in 2007-08. Now he devotes full-time focus on the World Justice Project (WJP). 

By its measurement standards, WJP seeks to achieve:

  1. Awareness through enhanced understanding of the rule of law and its foundational importance; 
  2. Stimulating reforms towards greater adherence to the rule of law by governments; and
  3. Developing practical programs at the community level by way of multidisciplinary home-gown cultures of the rule of law. 

What is this thing we call “rule of law?” Above all, it is a concept not exclusively for judges and lawyers. It involves all citizens as stakeholders requiring all to play a role in upholding a just and fair society. Most of us not being lawyers, a better understanding of the “rule of law” arms us with a useful tool for citizen participation as well as develop political maturity. Rule of Law is an indispensable element of economic opportunity and progress. Its nurture requires vigilance. Vigilance in turn entails involvement. It is most effective when consistently anchored upon a durable system steadfastly observing the basic principles of accountability, law and order, an open government and accessible justice. 

In an effort to measure the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in their actual practice, in situ, the World Justice Project has launched the “Rule of Law Index.” It utilizes a quantitative assessment tool that attempts to arrive at a detailed and comprehensive portrait of a per country “rule of law” situation. Its survey infrastructure was developed, tested and refined, in consultation with interdisciplinary experts worldwide. A uniform questionnaire for all countries enrolled is utilized in the survey. 

The “Index” involves eight factors or criteria that are used as bases for measuring the respective country’s adherence and progress as to how effective their justice systems are operating. These are: a) constraints on government power; b) absence of corruption; c) open government; d) fundamental rights; e) order and security; f) regulatory enforcement; g) civil justice; and h) criminal justice.

Let me pick out the three areas where the Philippines was perceived herself to be most deficient, along with a thumbnail description of that particular criterion:

  • Criminal Justice: As a key aspect of the rule of law, it constitutes the conventional mechanism to redress grievances and brings action against individuals for offences against society. Logged at 112th place out of 128 countries in the survey.
  • Fundamental Rights: These are basic human rights of all citizens, supposed to be recognized by the Supreme Court as requiring a high degree of protection from government encroachment. These are rights specifically identified under the Constitution. 107th place out 128.
  • Open Government: This means a government that shares correct information, thus empowering people with tools to hold the government accountable and fostering citizen participation in public policy deliberations. 97th out of 128.

(The full results of the Rule of Law Index for 2020 is due for release this weekend. I would encourage our cyber community who wish to learn more about WJP and its Rule of Law Index to visit these websites: www.worldjusticeproject.org as well as press@worldjusticeproject.org. )

While it is obvious that there are a few dozen countries worse off than the Philippines in that Index, still, a fall of forty points over the last five years is indeed demoralizing. The fact that the US is not within the top twenty of the Index ought not be a sop or “Consuelo de bobo” at all. It must not discourage us. After all, don’t we all know what events occurred in the Philippines during the last five years that drove our rule of law ranking to its dismal fall? 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.