PH still only ‘partly free’ in annual global rankings

PH still only ‘partly free’ in annual global rankings

/ 05:20 AM March 25, 2024


INQUIRER file photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines remained a “partly free” country in the annual “Freedom in the World” report of US-based Freedom House, which decried that global freedom declined for the 18th consecutive year in 2023.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization said the “breadth and depth of the deterioration were extensive … Political rights and civil liberties were diminished in 52 countries, while only 21 countries made improvements. Flawed elections and armed conflict contributed to the decline, endangering freedom and causing severe human suffering.”


READ: PH universities slip in global rankings


According to the ranking, the 10 freest countries in ranking order are Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, United States, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom and The Netherlands. (See the full report at its latest annual assessment, the Philippines got only 58 out of a possible 100 points, with 100 representing the maximum level of freedoms, mainly civil, democratic and political rights, because of problems including disinformation, vote- buying and violence targeting journalists and activists even if elections were free from overt restrictions.

While the Philippines outperformed some of its regional neighbors like Vietnam (19/100) and Malaysia (53/100), it lagged behind robust democracies in the Asia-Pacific such as Japan (96/100) and Taiwan (94/100).

Disinformation campaigns

The Philippines’ overall score remained unchanged from the previous year’s report, indicating stagnation in addressing the country’s democratic deficits. The static rating suggests limited progress was made over the past year in safeguarding political rights and civil liberties in the face of enduring challenges.

“Established political elites benefit from structural advantages, and problems including highly organized disinformation campaigns and widespread vote- buying have undermined fair competition,” the report said.

“While the levels of violence and impunity are thought to have decreased somewhat since a new administration took office in 2022, harmful practices such as ‘Red-tagging’—the denunciation of government critics as supposed communists—have persisted,” it added.

The report cited that two journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2023, continuing a years-long pattern of violence and impunity targeting members of the media in the Philippines.


In May, radio reporter Cresenciano “Cris” Bundoquin was fatally shot in Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro, allegedly in retaliation for his reporting on illegal gambling operations. Then in November, radio journalist Juan Jumalon was gunned down during a live broadcast in Calamba City, Laguna.

The report stated that the Filipino justice system routinely fails due process rights and protect citizens from abuse.

“Arbitrary detention, disappearances, kidnappings, and abuse of suspects are still common, and the police and military continue to face allegations of corruption, extortion, and involvement in the illegal drug trade,” the report said.

Manipulation by elite

Former Sen. Leila de Lima, who investigated former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war, was finally granted bail in November after over five years of pretrial detention on dubious drug charges.

The report also cited the imbalance of political power between socioeconomic classes.

“A relatively small number of powerful families that are active in politics and business also have a disproportionate influence over policy-making. As a result, legislative output does not always reflect the interests of the electorate,” the report said.

Positive developments

The report cited positive developments, including renewed peace talks with communist rebels, and a decrease in deadly counterinsurgency operations compared to recent years. But it warned that threats to civil liberties remain.

“The Philippines is one of the world’s deadliest countries for environmental and land-rights activists in particular. Communities located near mining sites are frequently affected by such violence,” the report said.

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According to Freedom House, government corruption also persists despite some prosecutions, undermining faith in institutions. China’s maritime aggression in the South China Sea, where it contests Philippine territorial claims, adds another challenge.

TAGS: global, Philippines, ranking

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