After my remarks on impunity last week, a friend brought to my attention a disturbing study on Impunity (via InterAksyon), showing that among 59 countries, the Philippines led in the Global Impunity Index.
The simple definition of impunity, as well as the common overall perception of it, is that
wrongdoers are not brought to justice.
The so-called Global Impunity Index has been drawn up after extensive recent research by the Impunity and Justice Research Center of the Universidad de las Americas, a private university in Pueblas, Mexico.
The study focused on 59 countries out of 193 United Nations members. Only 59 were included because of the unavailability of updated information from the rest.
Sadly, the Philippines led the Global Impunity Index among the 59 countries studied, at 80 percent. It was followed by Mexico (where Universidad de las Americas is situated) at 75.7 percent, Colombia at 75.6 percent, Turkey 68.7 percent, Russia 67.3 percent. At the opposite end, meaning the countries low in the Impunity Index, were Croatia at 27.5 percent, Slovenia 28.2 percent, Czech Republic 34.8 percent, Montenegro 34.9 percent, Bulgaria 37.5 percent. In between were South Korea 63.3 percent, US 56.4 percent, Japan 49.3 percent, Spain 53.6 percent, Singapore 46.4 percent, Germany 43.1 percent.
The study divided impunity into three dimensions – security, justice and human rights – and used 14 factors to measure them. Alas, the Philippines did not show good results in any. Five factors related to problems of security, which are not so much how many policemen are in the streets but how they carry out their operations. We have seen and experienced the errors of law enforcement here as we speak, which redounds to the capacity and preparation of the police in particular.
Another five factors related to justice in reference to its administration and delivery. Here the low rate of judges to citizens resulting in delay in the delivery of justice (surely including the venality within the system) explains the high levels of impunity that are present and perceived. Under these circumstances, wrongdoers just game the justice system and impunity results.
The last four factors refer to human rights, of which clear violations are witnessed daily in the implementation of the law or keeping order. Recent events, particularly those showing the dismal attention and respect of human rights in law enforcement show that they are under siege here.
The interesting conclusion of the study is that corruption stems from impunity, not the other way around. People become corrupt when they know they can get away with it.
Having good laws are not enough. They must be implemented firmly, even-handedly and in a timely fashion. Furthermore, inequality, not wealth, fuels impunity. Countries of unequal economic levels are the ones who fail to give equal access to security and justice. Comparatively, countries with medium and high levels of human development (less stark levels of inequality) perform better.
With the above study’s conclusions showing our level of impunity, we, as a society, must demand equality from all authority be it from schools, the police, business, the judiciary, legislators, basic services, all government agencies, including ourselves, that we implement the rules that we have in place and dispense justice according to their letter and spirit.
We cannot accept being the leading country for impunity. Public opinion has to come out strongly in various ways to demand reform. We cannot tolerate that perpetrators, for example the media killers, are not brought to account, that law enforcement officers or any authorities are ineffective against these repeated crimes that go unpunished (the definition of impunity).
In these cases and in all others regarding law violators, criminal cases must be filed and disposed of as the law requires – on time and in fairness. Administrative and disciplinary rules are not exempt from enforcement with neither fear nor favor. Accused wrongdoers must face timely investigation, arrest, trial and punishment if found guilty. And reparations must be given to the victims be it persons or the state.
There may be worst-case scenarios of impunity out there among the 80 plus countries that were not studied because they did not give enough data to be included in the research. But for now we must bear the burden and accept the challenge to turn things around from having the worst “structure of the security system” and “the security system of human rights.”