Philippines suffers world’s biggest drop in rule of law under Duterte
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Philippines suffers world’s biggest drop in rule of law under Duterte

THE Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has experienced the biggest drop in rule of law globally over the last 12 months, according to a new report from the World Justice Project (WJP).

The Southeast Asian nation dropped 18 places to 88th in the 2018 Rule of Law Index, but is still not the worst country in the region. Cambodia received one of the lowest scores in the world, with only Venezuela ranking lower.

Globally, the report reveals a dip in fundamental human rights and justice in almost two-thirds of the 113 countries surveyed, raising concerns of a worldwide surge in authoritarian nationalism and a retreat from international legal obligations.

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The 2018 index gathers data from more than 110,000 households and 3,000 experts to compare their experiences of legal systems worldwide. It calculates weighted scores across eight separate categories, including corruption, constraints on the government, fundamental rights, and open government.

This year’s drop for the Philippines is on top of a fall of nine places in the 2017 index. Its lowest scores were in order and security, and criminal justice.


Kem Sokha’s supporters stand outside the Appeal Court during his bail hearing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Sept 26, 2017. Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring

According to Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, Duterte’s administration, which came to power in June 2016, has put a “palpable strain upon established countervailing institutions of society.”

He told The Guardian there had been a “chilling effect” on the country’s opposition in the wake of attacks against personalities who have criticised Duterte’s policies.

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The civil and political rights environment in Cambodia markedly deteriorated last year under Prime Minister Hun Sen, earning it the second from bottom spot on the list. The political opposition was dissolved and its leader jailed in 2017. Hun Sen also oversaw a crackdown on the press and freedom of expression as prominent independent media outlets were shuttered and rights activists arrested.

“The WJP’s findings provide worrying confirmation that we live in very dangerous times for the rule of law and human rights,” Murray Hunt, director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, told The Guardian.

“The worldwide resurgence of populism, authoritarian nationalism and the general retreat from international legal obligations are trends which, if not checked, pose an existential threat to the rule of law,” Hunt said. “Preventing violations of the rule of law and human rights is always better than curing them after the event.”