In light of Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project (WJP) finding the Philippines lowest in adherence to the rule of law, Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra assured that compliance with the rule of law is a fact of life in the country “except for a few sensationalized cases.”

Adherence to the rule of law in the Philippines remains one of the weakest in the region, with the country placing 102nd out of 139 countries included in the Rule of Law Index of WJP. 

The Philippines dropped from 91st out of 128 countries in the index last year and remained at 13th place out of 15 countries in East Asia and the Pacific region, only ahead of Myanmar and Cambodia both notoriously unstable.

The Index measures adherence to the rule of law based on eight indicators –constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Countries get a score of 0 to 1, with 1 indicating strongest adherence to the rule of law.

In the latest index, the Philippines scored 0.46, lower by 0.01 compared to last year. The country’s scores also declined in all indicators except in regulatory enforcement and criminal justice, which stayed at 0.48 and 0.31, respectively.

The Index also noted a statistically significant change in the country’s score in order and security, which dropped by 0.02 to 0.63.

The country has continuously slipped in the Index since 2015, when it placed 51st out of 103 countries with a score of 0.53.

On the first year of the Duterte administration in 2016, the Philippines scored 0.51 and ranked 70th out of 113. It further dropped to 88th out of 113 with a score of 0.47 in the 2017/2018 index and 90th out of 126 with a score of 0.47 in 2019.

According to the WJP, more countries declined than improved in overall rule-of-law performance for the fourth consecutive year.

“In a year dominated by the global Covid-19 pandemic, 74.2 percent of surveyed countries experienced declines in rule of law performance, while only 25.8 percent improved. The declines were widespread and seen in all corners of the world. For the second year in a row, in every region, a majority of countries slipped backward or remained unchanged in their overall rule of law performance,” the WJP added.

Although disagreeing with the survey, Guevarra however said the government will exert all efforts to uphold and promote compliance with the rule of law.

“Except for a few sensational cases, the general crime rate in our country has been on a downtrend in recent years and the government has been addressing reported violations of human rights and alleged abuses in the conduct of the campaign against illegal drugs,” the Justice chief said. 

This did not stop Vice-president Leni Robredo from expressing disappointment over the country’s drop in rankings, noting how failure to adhere to the rule of law would impact other issues affecting Filipinos.

“When I was in Congress, I was part of the inter-agency committee making sure that our rankings improve… the opposite happened,” Robredo said. 

“If our performance is not right as far as respecting the rule of law is concerned, its impact is on the gut issues affecting our countrymen — health, education, human rights, social justice. All important aspects of our life are affected by this,” she added.

Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, for his part, said the WJP’s findings are taken as a challenge for the PNP to do more in maintaining peace and order in the country and vowed to make the necessary adjustments for the benefit of all.