Editorial: Are you happy?

·2 min read

SET your hooks on how data sets from two research bodies correspond. Singapore, which places third in Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 Corruption Perception Index, places 13th in Lowy Institute’s pandemic response ranking. Malaysia, on the other hand, ranks 16th on Lowy’s record and is at the 57th spot in the corruption perception index.

“Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It’s a corruption crisis. And one that we’re currently failing to manage,” says Delia Ferreira Rubio, TI chair.

The research body finds in its data that countries that have been responding poorly to the health crisis are those where corruption is most rampant. Corruption hijacks state resources away from public health response in the pandemic. The TI finds that countries with high level of corruption tend to spend less on health. Corruption renders state agencies inefficient so that when the Covid-19 crisis struck the world, these countries were ill prepared and fell deep into “serious trouble,” to use President Rodrigo Duterte’s words.

Here’s the rub: “With a score of 34, efforts to control corruption in the Philippines mostly appear stagnant since 2012. The government’s response to Covid-19 has been characterized by abusive enforcement and major violations of human rights and media freedom,” the TI’s reports said.

Transparency International is a global research group that envisions societies that are free of corruption. The group, which has 100 chapters worldwide, exposes data in its fight against corruption.

This is how the Philippines swirls down the spiral as far as corruption perception goes in the TI’s data. The country ranked 99th in 2018, 113th in 2019, and finally 115th in 2020. That’s a breath-taking 16 notches in three years.

There were 180 countries that were surveyed.

So 2020 it was when we shared spot with Moldova, and we were slightly below countries that we thought we’d never share space in the same sentence: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, Mongolia, North Macedonia. A little below us were Egypt, Eswatini, Zambia, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Ukraine.

Corrupt countries during the pandemic also tend to backslide democratically—deploying forces to quell criticism by citizens, media, leaders. In 2020, the Philippine government passed the Anti-Terror Law, now being questioned at the High Court for its tendency to leave civil rights to free interpretation. It was also in 2020 when a bunch of enterprising lawmakers allowed the shutting down of a major broadcast network on issues that were anyway properly addressed. It would take an enormous amount of naiveté to miss the pattern.

In the scheme of things, we were constantly disrupted by issues beyond the pandemic, and as always, either the health crisis is being underplayed or we’re playing rope-a-dope.