Philippine judiciary

Rule of law in Philippines still among the worst in East Asia

Jodesz Gavilan

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Rule of law in Philippines still among the worst in East Asia
'What we’ve seen particularly in the Philippines, when there’s a change in the government, there are improvements in the first year…but the years that follow, there are sometimes just setbacks,' says World Justice Project chief research officer Alejandro Ponce

MANILA, Philippines – The rule of law in the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. slid back one spot after last year’s improvement, according to the 2023 World Justice Project (WJP)’s Rule of Law Index released on Wednesday, October 25.

Rule of law in Philippines still among the worst in East Asia

The Philippines now ranks 100th out of 142 countries with a score of .046 out of 1 for 2023. The latest score is 1.5% lower than 2022’s .047, ranking 97th. The index score ranges from 0 to 1, with 1 being the highest. 

In East Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines ranks 13th out of 15 countries, just behind China and above Myanmar and Cambodia. Its score is also below the region’s average score of .59.

The WJP Rule of Law Index is drawn from a “rigorous methodology” involving at least 3,400 experts and surveys among at least 149,000 households  in 142 countries, covering at least 95% of the global population. 

The score given to one country is an average of eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice. 

The Philippines scored the highest in order and security with .67 out of 1 in 2023, a slight increase from .66 in 2022. It is the only recorded increase among all factors, while fundamental rights and civil justice remain unchanged.

Setbacks after first year in office

WJP chief research officer Alejandro Ponce said that in the Philippines, among the issues that brought down the country’s score are due process and freedom of assembly and association. These are similar to global trends. 

The country’s 2023 score and ranking, while lower than in 2022, is still higher compared to the situation under then-president Rodrigo Duterte, which was marked by overall deterioration of rule of law and human rights. In 2021, the Philippines ranked 102nd or 51 places lower than 2015’s 51st rank

There is no uniform period as to when a country’s rule of law could recover at a consistent pace, according to Ponce, as it largely depends on political will and support.

While Marcos has tried to distance himself from his predecessor, veering from attacking and openly criticizing democratic institutions, violence and attacks on the ground continue, especially against activists. 

“What we’ve seen particularly in the Philippines, when there’s a change in the government, there are improvements in the first year…but the years that follow, there are sometimes just setbacks,” Ponce said in a press briefing on Tuesday, October 24.

“Building institutions that are not strong takes time,” he added. 

The Philippines is not the only country to suffer in terms of rule of law. According to the WJP report, at least 6 billion people live in countries where the rule of law is declining.

“Since authoritarian trends pushed the world into a rule of law recession in 2016, the global downturn has affected 78% of countries,” WJP said in its report, adding that there were more countries whose rule of law declined than improved the past year.

“On the other hand, declines in the functioning of justice systems are now spreading, with more countries struggling to provide people with timely, affordable, and accessible justice,” it added. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.