MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' score in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International improved slightly, compared to 2017.
Meanwhile, efforts against corruption have "stalled" in most countries, and corruption has "undermined democracy" worldwide, said the global watchdog in its report released on Tuesday, January 29.
The Philippines got a score of 36 in 2018, tied with Albania, Bahrain, Colombia, Tanzania, and Thailand. This is up by two points from 34 in 2017.
The Philippines also ranked higher in 2018, jumping 12 notches from 111th in 2017 to 99th out of 180 countries.
Alejandro Salas, regional director at Transparency International, told Rappler in an email that the slight improvement was "probably due to the strong stance the government has taken against corruption and mainly reflected in less tolerance towards corrupt individuals and more punishment."
However, he noted that the Philippines' score is "still far from the Asia Pacific regional average of 44" and was the same score the country got in 2013 under the previous administration.
"Unfortunately, the message is clear, little has changed even as political speeches and some strong hand measures make a lot of noise, the reality still seems to be that day-to-day life for the people in the country does not see much change and corruption remains a big challenge," Salas said.
While he said that "some developments are taking place" during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, "particularly when we talk about a strong hand and punishment against the corrupt," Salas argued that an effective anti-corruption strategy "needs to be comprehensive and can't be based on only one tactic, like punishment in this case."
The progress of anti-corruption efforts, Salas continued, "can only be achieved and sustained, if there is a combination of building and strengthening of democratic institutions, fair and non-politicized punishment, and openness to citizen and journalism participation and engagement."
The trait that top-ranking countries in the CPI mostly share, he explained, "is the strength of their institutions that can perform their jobs. It is not about being rich or poor, being in the north or the south, it is about institutions performing their jobs freely and effectively." (IN NUMBERS: Impact of corruption on the Philippines)
Salas reiterated the importance of making anti-corruption efforts state policy. "No one has the monopoly of fighting corruption. No single government or actor, even President Duterte with his strong hand, will get rid of corruption on his own. People need to be in the driver’s seat, as it will take many years and many governments to see substantive progress."
'Crisis of democracy'
In its 2018 report on the CPI, Transparency International said the "continued failure" of most countries to significantly stop corruption "is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world."
The watchdog group noted that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 in the 2018 index.
Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International, said that with many democracies under threat, often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies, "we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens' rights."
"Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption," Moreira added.
A cross analysis of the CPI with different global democracy indices also showed "a link between corruption and the health of democracies," said Transparency International.
"Full democracies score an average of 75 on the CPI; flawed democracies score an average of 49; hybrid regimes – which show elements of autocratic tendencies – score 35; autocratic regimes perform worst, with an average score of just 30 on the CPI," it added.
"Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage," said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chairperson of Transparency International
Denmark 1st, Somalia last
Denmark is the least corrupt country worldwide in the 2018 index, with a score of 88. It swapped places with New Zealand, which ranked first in 2017, with a score of 87 in 2018.
Finland, Singapore, Sweden, and Switzerland tied at 3rd place, each scoring 85.
On the other hand, Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan remained at the bottom of the rankings, scoring 10, 13, and 13, respectively. North Korea and Yemen were next, each with a score of 14.
Globally, the average score is 43, the same as in 2017.
Western Europe and the European Union scored the highest among regions, with an average score of 66, while Sub-Saharan Africa performed the worst, with an average score of 32. These are their same average scores as in 2017.
The Asia Pacific region and the Americas again received an average score of 44, tied at second place as they were in 2017. The Middle East and North Africa ranked 3rd, with an average score of 39, while Eastern Europe and Central Asia followed suit, with an average score of 35.
To better fight corruption and strengthen democracies, Transparency International called on governments worldwide to:
In its annual CPI, Transparency International scores countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, according to experts and businesspeople.
Using a scale where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean, the CPI is based on surveys and assessments of corruption by bodies such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.