“Comme ci, comme ça,” the critical and exacting French would say for something that would not meet the superlatives of quality and aesthetics they are generally attributed with. In English, its idem sonans (sounds-like) is “cum si, cum sa,” like if someone asks you, “how are you?” you might reply, “cum si, cum sa,” meaning you are feeling not good, not bad, just average. “Cum si, cum sa” means “so-so.”
“So-so” is the Philippines’ performance in the World Bank’s World Governance Indicators (WGI) for 2019. In the Oct. 10 issue of BusinessWorld, the WGI charts detailed the answers to the curious question, “How does the Philippines fare in the World Bank’s governance metrics?”
“Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them,” the WGI prefaces.
The report measured and ranked the Philippines in six dimensions of governance compared with over 200 countries and territories over the period 2013–2018, with indicators on:
Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Control of Corruption, Rule of Law, and Regulatory Quality.
These aggregate indicators combine the views of a large number of enterprise, citizen and expert survey respondents in industrial and developing countries. They are based on over 30 individual data sources produced by a variety of survey institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and private sector firms, the World Bank website explains.
“Cum si, cum sa” can describe Philippine governance in the WGI indices, where in the six years 2013-2018, the average score across the six indicators is around 42%. On a scale of 100, this means below average (habitual) governance performance, clearly seen from 41.55% six-year average in Voice and Accountability, the 15.22% yearly average in Political Stability and Absence of Violence, the 56.10% in Government Effectiveness, the 38.91% in Control of Corruption, the 39.97% in Rule of Law, and the 58.65% in Regulatory Quality.
The sad realization is that from 2013, the performance ratings of Philippine governance have all gone down in the five indicators, except for Regulatory Quality, which has climbed through the six years from 50.24% in 2013 to 56.73% (still not a good score) in 2018. But even the slight improvement in Regulatory Quality negates the cumulative fall of Voice and Accountability to 47.78%; Political Stability and Absence of Violence to 12.86%; Government Effectiveness to 55.29%; Control of Corruption to 38.91%; Rule of Law to 34.12%; and Regulatory Quality to 56.73% in 2018 as the BusinessWorld graphics showed.
There is little to be proud of the Philippine performance when it comes to good governance, as measured by the WGI. There is much to be ashamed about in the fearsome score of Political Stability and Absence of Violence which has been habitually low since 2013 at 16.11% and plunging down to 12.86% in 2018, the second lowest (above only Myanmar with 10.48%) among 10 countries in ASEAN when the 2018 ASEAN average in this factor is already a low 48.05%. Control of Corruption of 34.13% is the 3rd lowest score among ASEAN countries, guiltily lower than the ASEAN average of 45.62%; and the Rule of Law score of 34.12% is the 4th lowest in ASEAN versus the regional average of 47.79% in 2018.
Filipinos cannot shrug their shoulders and brush away the culpable commissions and omissions in good governance with a hasty “cum si, cum sa” and pretend all’s well. That trust and popularity ratings of leaders are high in the face of externally measured good governance ratings like the WGI’s being so dismally low, sends sinister chills down one’s spine that the public might be blissfully ignorant or laxly permissive when it comes to what principles and values must underlie honest and transparent governance for sustainable progress and development, and, in the end, good quality of life for all.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) warns that “Bad governance is being increasingly regarded as one of the root causes of all evil within our societies. Major donors and international financial institutions are increasingly basing their aid and loans on the condition that reforms that ensure good governance are undertaken.” On its site, unescap.org, it exhorts that “Good governance has eight major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.”
The UNESCAP cites corruption and transgressions against the rule of law as well as political instability and violence as critical factors in governance, just as the WGI measured countries against uncompromising standards on these factors. How does the Philippines fare on this?
Mainstream and social media cry out against corruption, violence, civil and human rights violations every day, as television and internet news show killings and heinous crimes — but are the most sensational ever solved? Yet, who the criminals are seems obvious by empirical logic, but the technicalities of the law can save them, as often some justice operatives and defenders find some archaic law to exonerate even the most guilty-looking.
The most numbing example in the recent months has been the long-playing “telenovela” investigation that the Senate is conducting on the complicity of the highest ranking police officials in drug busts and re-selling. And this started with the re-investigation of the drug syndicates in the New Bilibid Prison whereby the Bureau of Corrections anomalies on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) were exposed, releasing some 1,914 people convicted of heinous crimes back to mingle and live with law-fearing society.
But the unkindest cut of all was the dismissal on Oct. 8 of the Marcos plunder cases filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) since 1987. “The plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” the Sandiganbayan ruled. The Sandiganbayan had in August, also dismissed the P102-billion forfeiture case against the Marcoses and other respondents.
The PCGG, the good governance watchdog of the country, has been sent off whimpering, its tail tucked between its trembling legs. And we say “cum si, cum sa” to the state of good governance in the Philippines?
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.