I am perhaps the least qualified to give an assessment of our socio-political situation. But the request came from one of our donors and I could not refuse. To prop up my objectivity, I did not present my views but relied on the how the Filipinos and the rest of the world assess our performance.
Do people think that our government is corrupt?
We were ranked No. 111 out of 180 countries in the 2017 Corruption Index. Government obtained a score of 34 in a scale where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is clean. It appears that corruption has become more pervasive considering that we have gone up the ladder from 95 in 2015, and 101 in 2016.
Transparency International explains that corruption is fostered by an unaccountable government, shrinking space for civil society and the rise of populist politicians.
In contrast, accountability is enhanced when government officials are judged on the basis of performance; when there are mechanisms for check and balance, when government is held answerable for its action, and officials are sanctioned for their dishonesty and incompetence.
Do we have a rule of law?
The World Justice Project noted that the Philippines had the biggest slide with respect to human rights. It scored 0.47 in a scale where 0 is given to countries with a weak rule of law and 1 to those with a strong rule of law. The country now ranks 88th out of 113 countries up from 70th place in 2016.
Rule of law exists when laws are applied evenly and the fundamental rights to life and property are protected; when justice is rendered by competent, ethical and independent representatives; when the exercise of government powers are limited; and there is no single person or agency in government that can exercise unchecked powers.
The Philippines slid in ranking in two other indices. It dropped 3 notches (from 58 to 61 out of 80 economies) in the Economic Freedom Index. The country slipped in property rights and government integrity.
Similarly, the Philippines was one of the four countries who saw their scores decrease in the Global Competitiveness index. These are in the areas of check and balance, judicial independence, infrastructure, and macro-stability.
In their study of the history of nations, Acemoglu and Robinson concluded that nations fail because they have extractive institutions. Those who are in power extract resources from the rest of society to enrich themselves. They consolidate their economic dominance and place few constraints on the exercise of their power. In contrast, the nations who progress have inclusive institutions that give people the freedom and opportunities to develop their talents and provide a level playing field.
I was almost in tears when I read the book. My tears finally fell when I read how Gunnar Myrdal described the Philippines:
“It is not surprising to find national polices shaped by personalities…..Interest groups tend to set the limits of government action…..Major parties are ideologically indistinguishable…..Political allegiance is largely determined by private and family interests….A not surprising consequence is that graft and corruption permeate all levels of public life….”
And he wrote that in 1968.