By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — The Philippines saw no score change since 2012 on Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released on January 28, ranking 115 over 180 countries and retaining a score of 34 over 100.

Transparency International said that “persistent corruption is undermining health care systems and contributing to democratic backsliding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Countries that perform well on the index invest more in health care, are better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms and institutions or the rule of law,” it added.

The German non-governmental organization said countries with higher corruption levels “also tend to be the worst violators of rule of law and democratic institutions during the COVID-19 crisis,” including the Philippines, citing its response to the pandemic as “characterized by major attacks on human rights and media freedom.”

In a report by The Philippine Star, the NGO noted that the Philippine government’s response to the pandemic “has been characterized by abusive enforcement and major violations of human rights and media freedom.”

Since March 2020, 123,994 quarantine violators have been detained, with most arrested for resistance and disobedience.

Last year, a House panel also voted against renewing the franchise of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN. The decision was hailed by administration supporters while rights activists saw it as a threat to press freedom and the right to information.

“In Asia Pacific and the Americas, some governments used COVID-19 to consolidate power but left citizens without access to emergency aid,” the NGO said, noting COVID-19 “exposed several cracks in already weak governance systems.”

Global highlights

“Denmark and New Zealand topped the index, with 88 points. Syria, Somalia and South Sudan come last, with 14, 12 and 12 points, respectively,” Transparency International said.

The NGO noted that nearly half of the 180 countries assessed have been stagnant on the index for almost 10 years, which indicates “stalled government efforts to tackle the root causes of corruption” while more than two-thirds score below 50.

Transparency International added that corruption takes public funds away from spending on essential public services, leaving communities without enough doctors, equipment, medicine, and facilities.

“In addition, a lack of transparency in public spending heightens the risk of corruption and ineffective crisis response,” it also said.

Key recommendations

Transparency International said 2020 highlighted integrity challenges among even the highest-scoring countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic and countries must strengthen oversight institutions to ensure resources reach those most in need by “providing sufficient funds, resources and independence to anti-corruption authorities to perform their duties.

Transparency International said that “the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated democratic decline, with some governments exploiting the pandemic to suspend parliaments, renounce public accountability mechanisms, and incite violence against dissidents.”

“COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage,” Transparency International Chair Delia Ferreira Rubio said.

“The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption at home and abroad,” she added.

The NGO scored countries by “perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people” and use data from 13 sources from 12 institutions that “that capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years.”