Thursday, April 25, 2019

BWorld 317, MORE Senators for rule of law

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on April 22, 2019.

Rule of law means the law applies equally to unequal people, no one is exempted and no one can grant an exemption. Granting exemptions, say, in the law against stealing or murder automatically leads to the rule of men where the powerful and the mob are exempted from penalties for violating certain rules.

The World Justice Project (WJP) produces an annual study, the “Rule of Law Index” (RoLI), and ranks countries based on their performance on 8 factors and 44 sub-factors. The RoLI 2017-2018 Report involved more than 110,000 households as respondents and 3,000 expert surveyors in 113 countries and jurisdictions, whereas the RoLI 2019 involved more than 120,000 households and 3,800 surveyors in 126 countries and jurisdictions.

Bad news #1 is that the Philippines’ global ranking has been deteriorating. From 51st in the RoLI 2015 Report, it is already down to 90th in the RoLI 2019 Report.

These four sub-factors are among the “downers” for the Philippines that dragged down its overall score and ranking:

4.2 The right to life and security of the person is effectively guaranteed.
4.3 Due process of the law and rights of the accused.
8.3 Correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behavior.
8.4 Criminal system is impartial.

Now comes bad news #2: in this coming May 2019 Senatorial elections, many of those in the Top 12 based on the SWS March 2019 survey may worsen the rule of law in the country if elected. On the other hand, the Otso-Diretso team has a good line up of human rights advocates (Chel Diokno, Gary Alejano, Erin Tañada, Samira Gutoc, Bam Aquino), experts in electoral and international law (Romy Macalintal, Florin Hilbay) and entrepreneurship (Mar Roxas). I wish that many of them will win but many are not in the Top 12, not even in the Top 18.

Independent candidate and former senator Serge Osmeña is another good candidate who should win but is not among the Top 12 in the recent surveys.

A number of recent legislations under the Duterte administration are violations of the rule of law. Like the free tuition in all state universities. If the state should give education subsidy, it should apply this to all tertiary students and not exclude those in private universities.

A pre-requisite market-oriented reforms for efficiency (MORE) in this case is for senatorial candidates with high respect for the rule of law to win. Further deterioration of the Philippines’ ranking, even a standstill in RoLI, is bad news.

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