Finding Freedom Podcast: Are we really equal?
Europe has seen many improvements in GENDER EQUALITY in recent years. Topic is not a taboo even in some less developed democracies. However, lack of equality between women and men in politic...
The Republic of the Philippines is an electoral democracy with a presidential system of government. Presidential elections take place every six years and the presidency is limited to a single term. The legislative system is bicameral with upper house MPs serving 6 years and lower house representatives serving 3-year terms. The last presidential election in 2010 was won by Benigno â€œNoynoyâ€ Aquinoâ€”the son of former president Corazon Aquinoâ€”from the reformist Liberal Party (LP), which won a majority in the lower house and only 3 out of 24 seats in the upper chamber. In May 2013, 12 upper chamber seats were up for election, of which the Liberal Party won 9. The 2010 elections were deemed a significant improvement, mainly due to a reduction of political
violence and the change of the head of The Commission on Elections (Comelec) to the respected lawyer Jose Melo. Violence still remained a problem as intimidations, physical attacks and bombing incidents continued in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Additionally Raul Matamorosa, an ally of President Aquino, was killed by unidentified gunmen. Civil society activism is considerable. There are numerous human rights, social welfare and other nongovernmental groups, as well as trade unions. However, due to legal requirements only 5% of the work force is unionized. Civil society organizations have been, and still are, targets of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
There are certain groups without a constitutional mandate influencing the political process in the Philippines. As was highlighted by an alleged coup attempt in 2006, the military plays a powerful role which exceeds its legal status. During her presidency, Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo was able to install many close allies in key positions such as the judiciary, police and military forces, as well as the executive branch. Under current president Aquino this system of cronyism is slowly being broken up. A strong culture of impunity allows the police and armed groups to act brutally at times, as witnessed recently in Mindanao. Corruption also remains endemic, distorting political decision making.
The Philippines were rated the third most dangerous country for journalists to work in (after Iraq, and Somalia) by The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2012. Killings, disappearances and many other sorts of intimidation are common. Crimes against reporters are usually not investigated and convictions are rare. This was especially highlighted by the infamous Maguindanao massacre in 2009 in which 58 people were murdered, among them 29 journalists. The country has a wide variety of private newspapers and mostly state owned TV stations. Although critical topics are addressed, journalistic ethics are often low and news coverage tends to be sensationalistic. The internet is widely accessible and not censored. Due to the problems with terrorism, the country has a number of
relatively repressive laws limiting the works of journalists and the access to information. The recently introduced Cybercrime Prevention Act has been suspended by the constitutional court for review. As in many other countries in Southeast Asia libel laws are strict and have been used to quiet criticism in the past.
The Freedom Barometer Asia ranks the Philippine judiciary as the least independent one among ASEAN countries. Corruption in courts is rampant due to low pay. External influence and pressure frequently play a considerable role when it comes to decision-making. Things reached a low point with the impeachment in May 2012 of Chief Justice Renato Corona who was found guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution. (He failed to properly declare several millions of dollars in foreign currency accounts.) His successor, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, has embarked on an ambitious programme to deal with the failings of the system.
During the election campaign in 2010, then Presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III made the statement â€˜kung walang corrupt, walang mahirapâ€™ (if there are no corrupt [officials], there will be no poverty). This declaratory determination to eradicate corruption has catalyzed an operational shift since being voted to power. Corruption in the Philippines is still institutionalized and rampant, however moves taken to eradicate corruption are having positive effects on overall levels. Transparency International has documented the positive trend over the last few years. In 2012 the Transparency Internationalâ€™s Corruption Perception Index ranked the Philippines at 104 of 176 surveyed countries, down from 129 in 2011. These strides forward in combating corruption
will be tested by the revelations of the misuse of government funds during the current â€˜pork barrel scamâ€™. The leaks of government money allocated to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for Senators and members of the House of Representatives are being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Aquino has so far given the NBI and the Department of Justice a green light, which has unveiled a hugely penetrating network which has supposedly extracted enormous amounts of money out of public coffers and into the bank accounts of private foundations and individuals. How Aquino deals with the to-be disgraced officials will test his resolve and will help to illustrate his dedication, or lack thereof, to eradicate corruption.
Media and civil society in the Philippines continues to grow and flourish without too much government interference. The death penalty was abolished in 2006 and apart from the resulting unrest and human rights abuses emanating from communist and Islamic insurgency movements, the countryâ€™s human rights levels are improving. There are four sections however, which remain poor; extrajudicial killings, freedom of association, trafficking and the use of child soldiers. From July, 2010 to April 30, 2013, human rights organization Karapan has documented at least 142 victims of extrajudicial killings. Being a journalist remains a deadly profession in the Philippines and many report intimidation and harassment. Aquino is also yet to repeal Executive Order 546, which has allowed
politicians to arm paramilitary groups. The US and European Parliament have called on the Philippine government to end impunity for extrajudicial murderers, kidnappers and torturers. Insurgent groups Abu Sayyaf, New Peopleâ€™s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have continued to use child soldiers, both as combatants and in auxiliary roles as guides and cooks. The human rights abuses committed by and upon these insurgent groups are dragging down the overall level of human rights progress. Internationally, the Philippines have been criticized for its underwhelming efforts as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The Philippines have opposed or abstained from voting on measures to improve the human rights situation in Syria and voted against a resolution to promote reconciliation in Sri Lanka following the countryâ€™s internal armed conflict.
In theory, property rights and laws to protect them are firmly entrenched in the Philippine legal system and this, in turn, draws investment into the economy. But corruption, weakness of the state in rural areas, and insurgent activities in some regions mean that in praxis property rights are not always protected. Slow courts and, in some cases, disregard for contracts raise additional concerns. The protection of intellectual property rights remains troublesome.
Government expenditures (which include consumption and transfer payments) stand at 18.1% of GDP. Taxes are rather high. The top income tax rate is 32%, whereas the top corporate tax rate is set at 30%. Additionally, Philippine citizens have to pay VAT, real estate tax and an inheritance tax. Overall tax revenue is about 12% of GDP.
Banking dominates the comparatively stable financial sector. Five big commercial banks - two of them state-owned - control a sizeable share of the total assets. The government runs a small Islamic bank, which caters mostly to Muslim citizens in the South. Although credit is generally allocated at market terms, banks have to lend part of their money to preferred sectors.
To start, run, and close a business is fairly well regulated, but can be time consuming. Starting a business takes about 36 days and 16 procedures. A business license can be obtained in as much as 29 procedures and 84 days. A new insolvency law regulates the liquidation and reorganisation of bankrupt companies.
The weighted average tariff rate is 4.8%. Among the obstacles to international trade are high tariffs, import and export restrictions, access barriers to the Philippine service market, opaque customs valuations, corruption and, (as mentioned above), a weak intellectual property rights regime.