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EDITORIAL — Rule of law recession

Considering the state of the nation, it’s a wonder that the Philippines wasn’t ranked lower than 100th among 142 countries in the latest Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project. It was a three-point drop for the Philippines from the previous year’s 97th place among 140 included by the WJP in the index.

In East Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines placed 13th among 15 countries, ahead of only Myanmar and Cambodia. The Philippines has been on a free fall since 2016, when it plummeted to 70th among 113 from 51st among 103 in 2015. The country continued to plunge, to 88th among 113 in 2017 and 2018; 90th of 126 in 2019; 91st of 128 in 2020 and 102nd out of 139 in 2021.

The rankings are based on 44 indicators grouped into eight main categories: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.

Few will disagree with the assessment of the WJP on the state of those indicators in the Philippines. It’s cold comfort to know that the problem is global. “The world remains gripped by a rule of law recession characterized by executive overreach, curtailing of human rights and justice systems that are failing to meet people’s needs,” WJP co-founder and president William Neukom said.

Denmark topped the index anew, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Estonia and Ireland. At the bottom were Venezuela, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Cameroon, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Mauritania.

In East Asia and the Pacific, New Zealand topped the list, followed by Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mongolia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia.

It’s no mere coincidence that the countries at the top of the list are also among the most prosperous. This has been evident for many years now, yet the situation in the Philippines has deteriorated instead of improving. There have been some improvements particularly in the field of human rights under the Marcos administration, but there is still a wide room for reforms.