By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA — The rule of law in the Philippines has remained among the weakest in the Southeast Asia despite improved ranking from 90th this 2019 to 2017’s and 2018’s 88th out 126 countries, according to the World Justice Project’s (WJP) annual Rule of Law Index.

In the 2019 edition, the Philippines’ score was steady at 0.47, which means “weaker adherence to the rule of law.”

The Country also placed at the bottom of East Asia and the Pacific region, ranking 13th out of 15 along Myanmar and Cambodia, with New Zealand topping the list. It ranked 14 out of 30 among lower-middle income countries.

“Effective rule of law is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace,” WJP Founder and CEO William Neukom said in the report.

“No country has achieved a perfect realization of the rule of law. The WJP Rule of Law Index is intended to be a first step in setting benchmarks, informing reforms, stimulating programs, and deepening appreciation and understanding for the foundational importance of the rule of law,” Neukom added.

According to WJP, the Index is an annual evaluation of rule of law adherence worldwide based on more than 120,000 household and 3,800 expert surveys worldwide. It also measures countries’ rule of law performance across eight factors: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

The Index also noted that an effective rule of law “reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protests people from injustices large and small.”

“It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace — underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights,” the report said.

Global setting
“Globally, the new WJP Rule of Law Index scores show that more countries declined than improved in over-all rule of law performance for a second year in a row, continuing a negative slide toward weaker rule of law around the world,” WJP said.

“In a sign suggesting rising authoritarianism, the factor score for Constraints on Government Powers declined in more countries than any other factor worldwide over the last year (61 countries declined, 23 stayed the same, 29 improved),” it added, with Denmark, Norway and Finland in the 2019 edition’s top three.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia and Venezuela are at the bottom three.

Need help to improve ranking
According to a report by The Philippine Star, the Duterte administration is “Seeking all the help it can get” to improve the Philippines’ Rule of Law Index.

“We note the ranking of the Philippines, currently at 90th in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2019. We will not rest and continue exerting efforts on this aspect,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said on March 2.

Panelo added that the Government is keen on improving the ranking, which moved three notches higher since the 2017-2018 edition.

“The Duterte administration has been tirelessly working on these since Day One and we are pleased with the Philippines’ improved global rank in 2019 as a result of our initiatives,” Panelo said.

“The Executive Branch cannot do it alone. The four universal principles of the World Justice Project rule of law framework, which include accountability, just laws, open government and accessible and impartial dispute resolution, require the support of all branches of the government,” he added, noting the president will need the support of Congress for the enactment of laws, as well as the cooperation of the Judicial branch for the “timely delivery of justice under accessible and impartial dispute resolution.”

“The spokesman said all the components are embodied in the Duterte administration’s Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 with the following strategic outcomes: enhancing the social fabric; inequality-reducing transformation and increasing growth potential,” the Philippine Star reported.