In the ever-shifting tapestry of governance, the Philippines finds itself navigating a labyrinth of challenges in the elusive realm of the rule of law. The 2023 World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index unfurls a complex narrative, painting the country’s quest for justice in hues of change and continuity, raising both hopes and questions.
Scribbling its name at the 100th position among 142 nations, with a modest score of .046 for 2023, the Philippines’ standing has subtly waned. This statistic echoes a 1.5% drop from last year’s tale when the country played a slightly higher note, ranking 97th with a harmonious score of .047. The WJP Index orchestrates a symphony that ranges from 0 to 1, where 1 embodies the zenith of adherence to the rule of law.
In the Eastern mosaic of Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines finds its melody at the 13th place among 15 countries, a note just behind China and higher than the reverberations of Myanmar and Cambodia. The orchestration, however, resonates below the regional average score of .59.
The overture of the WJP Rule of Law Index is a meticulously composed composition, drawing its inspiration from the wisdom of 3,400 experts, serenading surveys reaching 149,000 households across 142 countries, knitting an enchanting narrative that embraces a staggering 95% of the global population.
The score awarded to a nation is the ensemble of eight elements – the constraints on government powers, the absence of corruption, the notes of open government, the crescendo of fundamental rights, the cadence of order and security, the regulation’s rhythm, the harmony of civil justice, and the climax of criminal justice.
In the dance of digits, the Philippines shines with its virtuoso performance in “order and security,” earning a standing ovation with .67 out of 1 in 2023. It’s a gentle crescendo from the .66 in 2022, the sole uptick among the otherwise constant tones of “fundamental rights” and “civil justice.”
World Justice Project’s chief research officer, Alejandro Ponce, lends his voice to the symphony, narrating how the Philippines’ subtle drop is orchestrated by elements like due process, freedom of assembly, and association. The notes of change struck in the Philippines resonate with a global symphony of their own.
Is it getting worse?
The 2023 chapter, though lower than the 2022 notes, strikes a chord more melodious than the discordant tunes that once defined the era under President Rodrigo Duterte, marked by an entropic rule of law and human rights. In 2021, the Philippines’ score danced to a different tune, a 102nd spot, 51 notes lower than its 2015 crescendo at 51st place.
Ponce, the maestro, reminds us that there’s no universal tempo for a country’s journey through the rule of law. The melody is written by the hands of political will and support. The country has embarked on a new verse with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has moved away from his predecessor’s notes of discord with democratic institutions. Yet, echoes of unrest and attacks linger, most acutely against activists.
In a secret gathering of words, Ponce confides, “What we’ve seen particularly in the Philippines is that 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.”
He adds, “Building institutions that are not strong takes time.”
The Philippines doesn’t stand alone in this symphony of legal dilemmas. According to the concealed pages of the WJP report, over 6 billion souls dwell in lands where the rule of law is but a fading echo.
“Since the world was swept into a vortex of rule of law recession in 2016, these somber notes have shadowed 78% of countries,” whispers the report, adding that there are more countries witnessing the mournful dirge of decline than the joyous notes of improvement in the past year.
As the globe spins to an unfamiliar rhythm, the hidden pages of justice systems are playing a new score, one that fumbles to deliver timely, affordable, and accessible justice to a global audience yearning for a different tune.