By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
As if the times still ran short of unpleasant news, the World Justice Project’s 2021 Rule of Law Index plunged about 85 percent of the globe’s population of about 6.5 billion treading in a sense of worse insecurity, disorder, lawlessness, and injustice.
Indeed, the experts – the fine and distinguished lawyers, judges, and leaders in multiple disciplines – that make up the WJP and the partner organizations they engage in this advocacy are committed to assisting governments and policymakers through the independent data they provide. They claim to measure “how the rule of law is experienced and perceived worldwide based on household and expert surveys.”
Exactly so, the WJP reports have been giving the world the perception that here in the Philippines, our “rule of law” score is absolutely a mess and spiraling further down the drain. For example, in 2016, the Philippines ranked 70th out of 113 countries; then in 2017-2018, it was down to 88th out of 133 countries; in 2019, 90th out of 126; in 2020, 91st out of 129; and this year, 102nd out of 139.
One could only imagine the impact of these “independent findings” on how poorly we, as a Filipino people, adhere to the rule of law on the flickering interest of foreign investors to come in. To be rated a 0.46 – which is as low an overall WJP score as could be – is to say we are weak in security and order, fundamental rights and criminal justice, open government, absence of corruption, constraints on government powers, regulatory enforcement, and civil justice.
Perhaps, we should cover our faces in shame amid a modern world with a level of education, dignity, and righteousness that makes us out as more primitive animals hardly capable of law and order. Supposing that these findings speak true more of our government than ourselves as a nation, then isn’t that more insulting, having our supposedly best and brightest leading our institutions when all they are, based on WJP’s perception, are incompetent fools?
There is dignity and hope, though, in the measured response of our PNP Chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who takes the Rule of Law Index as a challenge for the country’s police force to perform better. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, for his part, made no fun or adamant denial of the WJP report and gave his department’s commitment to exert all efforts to improve adherence to the rule of law.
There was an “explainer” that came out days later, from a fellow mediaman who is a WJP director in the Philippines, claiming that like the many other countries (80 percent) that fared poorly in this year’s index, our country’s ranking was grossly affected by the pandemic. He explained it to be a backlash of the government’s pandemic response of imposing restrictions on the public and constricting civic space, freedom of expression, and civic participation – even of what he termed as a “militarized” approach on account of police officers wearing combat uniforms at quarantine checkpoints.
There is, however, a grain of truth to what Justice Sec. Guevarra said: “Our law enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial institutions, although imperfect like any other human institution, have been functioning as they should.”
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