Rule of Law in the Philippines The Philippines faces a multitude of challenges due to pervasive corruption in the government, which includes extrajudicial killings, targeted attacks on journalists and a lack of accountability among those in positions of power. This erosion of the rule of law in the Philippines has far-reaching consequences, particularly in exacerbating poverty throughout the country. As the rule of law weakens, officials and politicians manipulate the legal system for their personal benefit, leading to the misallocation of funds meant to benefit the poor.

Against this backdrop, there is a growing demand for justice and accountability in the country. Recent statistics on poverty have underscored the urgent need to address these issues and restore the rule of law in the Philippines. Estimates show that national poverty increased from 16.7% in 2018 to 18.1% in 2021.

By strengthening the rule of law, the Philippines can begin to restore its democracy and ensure that resources benefit all members of society. Rule of law is a crucial factor in determining a country’s economic and social well-being. The weakening of institutions can impede the development of a democratic society that promotes socialization and inclusivity. In turn, extractive institutions that do not adhere to the rule of law breed a culture of inequality and poverty.

The Current State of the Rule of Law

The Philippines is experiencing a decline in its Rule of Law Index score, as the World Justice Project reported. The score decreased by 2.9% from last year, ranking the Philippines 102nd out of 139 countries. Key metrics that make up the rule of law index, such as order and security, criminal justice and fundamental rights that citizens hold, have shown continued deterioration.

The Philippines is also increasingly corrupt, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The country ranks 116th out of 180 countries in 2022, up from 113th in 2020.

In 2019, reports indicated the loss of an estimated 700 billion pesos in the country due to corruption, leading to further deprivation among the poor. Instead of the funds going toward economic production or social welfare, aid and education, the money was lost to government corruption.

Duterte’s war on drugs is an example of the deterioration of the rule of law in the Philippines. Starting in 2016, Duterte’s violent anti-drug operations have been responsible for extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations. Recent estimates suggest that more than 36,000 deaths have occurred in the name of the drug war, with blatant disregard for the due process of law.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened corruption in the Philippines in 2020. Several high-ranking officials were accused of siphoning off millions of pesos from the government’s pandemic response budget, leading to outrage and calls for accountability. Although the government did hold some officials accountable for their actions, corruption remains a pervasive issue in the country.

Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines possesses abundant human and natural resources and had been experiencing continuous economic growth since 1985. However, despite this progress, the country has yet to fully achieve its economic potential.

In 2021, according to the Asian Development Bank, roughly 19.9 million individuals lived below the poverty threshold of about 12,030 pesos monthly for a household of five and the deteriorating rule of law in the Philippines plays a significant role in perpetuating this issue. The weak justice system also creates an environment where people are less likely to trust the government and the legal system.

The weak rule of law leads to a lack of accountability for those who commit crimes and abuse their power. This results in impunity for the wealthy and powerful, who can get away with illegal activities and corruption while the poor continue to suffer. This was evident in the war on drugs as wealthy targets who could pay off vigilantes were less likely to be targeted in the first place.

The COVID-19 pandemic further worsened poverty in the Philippines, with Filipinos being even poorer today than in 2018. A staggering report by private polling firm Social Weather Station revealed that approximately 48% of the population considered themselves poor in 2022.

A Path Forward

New President Marcos Jr. has taken a strong stance against poverty, stating that he will strive to end his six-year term with a “single-digit” poverty rate. Although this goal could be difficult to achieve, it highlights the pressing nature of poverty within the country.

Despite the challenges, there are signs of progress. The Philippines government is making efforts to address the erosion of the rule of law, including investigating and monitoring human rights within the country, beginning with prosecuting corrupt politicians.

In 2019, the country passed a law to modernize and improve its court system. It also made efforts to increase transparency and accountability in government, such as establishing a Freedom of Information Order in 2016. This law gives citizens the right to access information that the government holds, with certain exceptions for national security and other sensitive matters. However, more and urgent action is necessary to protect the media, prevent extrajudicial killings and provide stronger social safety nets for the poor.

If the legal system can function effectively fairly, and impartially, it can provide the foundation needed for a government to flourish and encourage economic growth and poverty reduction. Conversely, the erosion of the rule of law can have devastating consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Therefore, it is essential that the Philippines continue to work toward strengthening its legal system and ensuring that it can function independently and impartially, for the benefit of all its citizens.

– Andrew Giganti
Photo: Flickr

Reopening Schools in the Philippines
The Philippines has had school doors’ closed for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines’ Department of Education is wary of potential spikes in COVID-19 cases. However, it also believes that reopening schools in the Philippines and re-introducing students to in-person education models are beneficial to students’ future education and eventual economic earnings.

Education in the Philippines

The government mandated that all Philippine children receive a minimum of 12 years of education. Students in Filipino public schools must graduate from elementary school, junior high school and high school.

Private education institutions in the Philippines typically produce students with high reading comprehension levels and excellent understandings of basic science and math concepts. In contrast to the quality of private education in the Philippines, public schools fall drastically short of meeting educational goals.

A 2018 study focused on high school-aged students from 79 different nations and found that public Filipino schools rank last for reading comprehension. The gap in educational quality between the Philippines’ private and public schools is because the Philippines’ public schools receive extremely limited funding.

Public schools in the Philippines also struggle to maintain running water and basic hygiene supplies. Many of the issues with school upkeep stem from a lack of funding. In the past decade, the Philippines’ government has spent less than 5% of the country’s overall GDP on public education annually.

Impacts of COVID-19 and Poverty on Education

The COVID-19 pandemic halted education worldwide, and the Philippines was not an exception to this rule. As of January 2022, the Philippines recorded more than 2.8 million positive COVID-19 cases.

To avoid spreading the virus to students, their families and their communities, schools in the Philippines halted all in-person classes. It would be beneficial for them to reopen soon to counteract the damage to education.

The Philippines closed its borders and all public and private businesses made workers operate remotely if possible. Additionally, school plans and teaching methods changed.

The Philippines’ government’s plans for remote public educations were difficult for many families. The plans demanded access to technology and resources many students and their families do not have. Most schools began operating remotely and in some areas, the government and schools coordinated efforts to present lessons on television as the internet is not always reliable in the rural Philippine regions. Even with all the efforts that the Philippines’ government made, Filipino students, four out of 10 at least, do not have proper access to technology to continue with remote education systems.

Many families cannot afford the essential technologies necessary for the new way of learning and working. The average salary in the Philippines is $3,218 per year. With such a low salary, technology updates are not an immediate need in comparison to other essentials. It is not surprising that schools and families have struggled to provide children with the education they deserve. Reopening schools in the Philippines would support the future endeavors of children.

What Does Reopening Schools Mean for Children in the Philippines?

The Philippines had remarkably low records of positive COVID-19 cases for several months, but a spike in cases occurred at the beginning of fall 2021. Since then, the number of positive recorded cases has decreased again. According to the U.S. News, the government believes that it has developed the proper methods to keep the number of positive COVID-19 cases low for most, if not all, public work environments and schools.

In the Philippines, inadequate education has been a clear reason why Filipino citizens live in poverty. Many employers in the Philippines refuse to provide job opportunities to people who do not make it through all mandated education levels. Without education, people may have a challenging time obtaining jobs, resulting in a continuation of the cycle of poverty.

Furthermore, the higher-paying jobs in the Philippines require advanced degrees. The Asian Development Bank has predicted that the pauses in children’s education will decrease Filipino students’ future earnings by $1.25 trillion. Schools in the Philippines are crucial to fixing this expected drop in income.

Returning the children to their education will preserve more opportunities to increase future earnings. Reopening schools in the Philippines is coming at a critical time as Filipino students are not reaching the global benchmarks. Bringing students in on a volunteer basis right now could increase the students’ chances of escaping poverty.

Improving Education Inside the Home

Education is vital to a child’s chances at a future with higher wages than a peer without an education. To stay on this path and continue a children’s education and promote education in the home as well, Filipino-based organizations have been working to bring technology into the hands of children outside the classroom. Not only will this encourage education for children, but should the Philippines deem in-person classes unsafe again, the children will have the tools to continue with their studies and not lose any more future wages. This has been coming about in two major ways: one is with the assistance of Microsoft in the Philippines, but the other is with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Microsoft Philippines and Felta Multi-Media Incorporated

Microsoft Philippines and Felta Multi-Media Incorporated partnered in 2015 to begin an initiative to put technology in the hands of schoolchildren. Their goal was, and still is, to help motivate the children to continue their education both in schools and at home. The partnership designed the technology so that it is safe with children (i.e. waterproof) and has features perfect for exploring outside of the classroom, such as specialized cameras and educational programs. These pieces of technology are the kinds that are best for helping children grow intellectually even if school doors remain closed.

The BEACON Project

The second method to improve a child’s access to technology and enhance their education is with a partnership between USAID and the Philippines’ government, called the Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project. The partnership is working to improve internet access across the nation’s rural regions, which will improve the children’s ability to attend classes remotely. The project should take five years to implement. Nonetheless, as soon as the project is in full swing, internet connectivity for children in rural areas will provide access to online education platforms used in the at-home schooling models. The ability to attend classes remotely and improve a child’s chance at a future full of more opportunities will grow exponentially with the increased internet connectivity and the availability of Microsoft and Felta technology.

The two together promise great things for a Filipino child. If schools cannot open in-person, such as is the goal, then they will be able to open remotely with the improved technology access, thus improving a Philippine child’s chances to build a career and avoid poverty.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr