Criminal justice and Pres. Duterte

* This is my article last week, a day before the inauguration of President Duterte. His inauguration speech was good, no expletives, no PI, no “kill dozens/thousands”, very Presidential.

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State-sponsored murders can be the hallmark of the incoming President Rodrigo Duterte administration. Criminal adjudication and the correctional system will take a backseat as suspected drug pushers/users, thieves and other criminals will simply be killed outright.

Mr. Duterte announced last June 25 in Cebu that “This will be finished. Six years. You just think if I will kill 10 per day.” That is nearly 22,000 dead people in six years, whether real or falsely-accused.

So far, the death toll of drug-related murders from May 10 to June 25 has reached 59, according to The Philippine Star report. That is an average of 1.3 deaths per day and Mr. Duterte is not officially President yet.

I have no sympathy whatsoever with drug lords, drug pushers, and hardened drug users/addicts who steal and commit other crimes. Various law enforcement agencies should catch and bring them to jail. Give explicit signals of near certainty of arrest of law violators, especially the laws against murder, rape and stealing. Their faces, full names and aliases can be publicized.

These triple measures of near certainty of arrest + actual imprisonment + public posting of faces would be enough to significantly reduce criminality in the country. If the criminals themselves will not be ashamed of their imprisonment and publication of their faces in some papers, their families, relatives and friends will be ashamed and they will exert pressure on these people to mend their ways.

Outright murders, publicly-announced state-sponsored murders, send a signal that due process to some falsely accused individuals will be skipped. Some may have stolen chickens or cell phones but they were accused of drug dealing and are given summary execution as penalty.

The World Justice Project (WJP) produces an annual study, the “Rule of Law Index” (RLI) and score countries based on their performance on 8 factors and 44 sub-factors. The eight factors are: (1) Constraints on Government Powers, (2) Absence of Corruption, (3) Open Government, (4) Fundamental Rights, (5) Order and Security, (6) Effective Regulatory enforcement, (7) Civil Justice, and (8) Criminal Justice.

The WJP’s Index team has developed a set of questionnaires based on the Index’s conceptual framework, then it engaged 300+ (average) potential local experts per country to respond to the experts’ questionnaires, and engaged the services of leading local polling companies to implement the household surveys.

Polling companies conduct a survey of the general public in consultation with the Index team. The team sends the questionnaires to local experts and engage them in continual interaction. Then the team collects and maps the data onto the 44 sub-factors with global comparability and construct the final scores.

In the RLI 2015 Report, the Philippines scored 0.53 and ranked 51st overall out of 102 countries covered. The factor that heavily pulled down its overall score is #8, Criminal Justice, where it ranked 66th out of 102. Here is the score of the Philippines in comparison with its East Asian neighbors. The Philippines’ score in 2014 is also included (see table).

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What are the implications and challenges for the Philippines’ Judiciary and Executive agencies involved in justice administration and enforcement?

One, address the issue of (a) corruption in the correctional system that may even increase some criminal behavior, and (b) discrimination and exceptions in enforcing the criminal system. In these two sub-factors the Philippines scored very low.

Two, address also the problems in (c) criminal adjudication, make it more timely, (d) undue interference of some government officials in enforcing the criminal system, and (e) disrespect for due process of those falsely accused. These three sub-factors also contributed to low score of the Philippines. The new policy of state-sponsored murders will further adversely affect our justice system.

Third, strengthen efforts toward (f) more effective criminal investigation, and (g) freedom from corruption of the criminal system.

Our developed neighbors Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong do not have any policy of state-sponsored murders or even a death penalty. Stricter observance of the rule of law and having near-certainty of fines and/or imprisonment against law violators make them low-crime, low-corruption, economically-dynamic nations.

This is the kind of criminal justice system that we need, not state-sponsored murders.

 

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers, a Fellow of SEANET and member of the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

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