I just checked the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index (RoLI) 2020 Report. I like this annual report because of the subject it covers. I subscribe to Friedrich Hayek and other classical liberals’ definition — rule of law means the law applies equally to unequal people, the law applies to governors and the governed, administrators and the administered. No one is exempted and no one can grant an exemption. Granting exemptions leads to the rule of men.
The WJP did not make this kind of definition. Instead, it developed eight factors and 44 sub-factors particularly related to governance and the justice system. Then it scores and ranks countries based on their performance. The 2020 Report involved more than 130,000 household surveys and 4,000 legal practitioner and expert surveys worldwide from 128 countries and jurisdictions.
I am surprised at the deterioration in Philippines ranking from 51st out of 102 countries in the RoLI 2015 Report, to 91st out of 128 in the RoLI 2020 Report. Our rank is lower than socialist countries China and Vietnam, and military-ruled Thailand. The main factors that pulled the country down were in No. 4 Fundamental Rights and No. 8 Criminal Justice (see Table 1).
Applying this to the current pandemic, the main problems are: One, lockdown policies have been very strict (like no regular public transportation until now, all schools and churches are still closed) and long — it has been seven months now since the March 16 declaration of ECQ (the strictest quarantine level). Two, lots of exemptions have been made by government, like police officials who have held parties, which are banned, without consequences; quarantines that do not apply to many government officials and personnel as they can travel to many provinces anytime while ordinary civilians must present travel passes that require many permits before a pass is granted.
So in a sense, the Philippine government has succeeded in flattening the rule of law, not the level of virus infections. The government has also flattened the economy, not the deaths from the virus.
The Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH) has consistently been advocating to “Flatten the Fear” and not the economy. Lift or relax the lockdown, protect the oldies and those with underlying conditions, focus on prevention and those with symptoms, give early treatment and stay home and avoid hospitalization whenever possible. Practical, non-expensive advice from doctors and medical professionals who do not agree with the overall narrative of indefinite, no timetable lockdown “while cases remain high.”
I also saw the update on death numbers from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on Oct. 2 and, surprisingly, there are fewer deaths this year than in the last two years. Deaths from road accidents and crimes must have significantly gone down due to the lockdown and evening curfew, and the closed bars (see Table 2).
This is not to argue that the lockdowns are justified because the economic damage, the job losses, have been wide and extensive and the health and mortality impact will be felt in the coming months and years.
When people are more hungry, more economically and psychologically depressed, they become more susceptible not only to the virus but also to other diseases.
Enough of indefinite lockdown, enough of double standards in implementing strict lockdown policies.
The government must open up the economy by November, whether cases remain high or not.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers