By Corina Oliquino
FilAm Star Correspondent
MANILA – The Philippines has slipped three spots in the latest Heritage Foundation 2018 Index of Economic Freedom (IEF). The Washington-based think tank cited the government’s low scores in integrity, monetary freedom and property rights as the reasons for the drop.
In 2017, the country’s global ranking jumped 12 notches to 58 but it slipped this 2018 to 61st. However, the country has improved its regional standing by one rank to number 13th among 43 countries surveyed in the Asia-Pacific, keeping its Moderately Free status.
“The Philippines’ economic freedom score is 65.0, making its economy the 61st freest in the 2018 Index. Its overall score has decreased by 0.6 point, with lower scores for the government integrity, monetary freedom, and property rights indicators outpacing improvements in trade freedom and judicial effectiveness,” the Index noted.
“The Philippines is ranked 13th among 43 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its over-all score is above the regional and world averages. The strong growth of the Philippines’ economy has allowed the government to prioritize domestic law and order issues over economic policy concerns,” the Index added.
The Index has also cited the rapid decline in President Duterte’s popularity causing investor confidence to decline by the end of last year.
According to the Index, “an absence of entrepreneurial dynamism (in the Philippine) thwarts development.”
The Index also cited that the country has adopted some fiscal reforms but it insisted deeper institutional reforms are required in interrelated area: business freedom, investment freedom, and the rule of law. The judicial system remains weak and vulnerable to political influence.
Property rights and Judicial Independence
In a report by The Philippine Star, the Philippines’ scores in property rights and government integrity slipped while its score for judicial effectiveness improved.
“Judicial independence is strong but the courts are plagued by inefficiency, low pay, intimidation, delays and long case backlogs. Corruption and cronyism are pervasive, and the country is a regional money-laundering hub,” according to The Philippine Star.
“The President’s strong-arm tactics reinforce a culture of impunity,” the report added.
While the country’s judicial independence score improved, the Index still noted that the Philippines’ judicial system remains weak and vulnerable to political influence.
Sustainability of PG economic growth
In the same story by The Philippine Star, in a report to Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano, PH Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez said the survey result clearly “indicated the sustainability of Philippine economic growth, particularly on the back of serious economic reforms, particularly in ease of doing business and taxation”.
“We are assured that this will enhance continued business and investor confidence, as we implement an ambitious infrastructure development program in the next few years,” Romualdez, told The Philippine Star.
“I wish to note that the latest Pulse Asia survey showed the President’s trust and approval ratings at an all-time high of 80 and 82 percent, respectively.
The latest Social Weather Station survey shows that the trust and satisfaction ratings are 83 and 75 percent, respectively,” Romualdez added.
PH’s drop in rule of law index based on perception
In a report by GMA News last February 3, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the World Justice Project’s 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index, where the country saw a big drop in rank, is based on “mere perception.”
“Sa akin po parang iyan ay perception na wala namang base sa reyalidad,” Roque said in an interview in Ilocos Norte by GMA News.
The report also noted that Roque admitted that the country’s criminal justice system is not perfect but clarified that this has been a problem way before the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“That is something that I think is a reflection of the need to have further reforms in our justice system. But that has been there not just during the administration of the Duterte administration,” Roque said.
The Index, which also measured the country’s economic growth similar to that of the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation, saw the Philippine dropped 18 spots, down to 88th out of 113 countries surveyed.
The Index, which measures a country’s “adherence to the rule of law from the perspective of ordinary people and their experiences,” also said that the Philippines now ranks 13th out of 15 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region,” according to GMA News.
With its over-all score of .47, The Philippines was classified as a “country with a weaker adherence to the rule of law.”
The result also puts the country below the index’s median, describing it as having a “declining rule of law.”