DoJ: Raps against critics legit

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra announces during a press briefing in Malacañang. LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The government was merely doing its job in filing cases against perceived critics of President Rodrigo Duterte for various offenses and which were not actions that undermine democracy, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a British think tank, in a report said the country slipped in its annual democracy index due to legal actions taken by the government against key personalities.

Puwesto ng Pilipinas sa democracy index 2018, bumagsak ng dalawang puwesto

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Posted by SMNI News on Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Guevarra said these legal actions were legitimate and were intended “to protect the state and the people.”

He stated the political opposition has not been muzzled at all in defending themselves and has unfettered access to both the local and international media.

In its Democracy Index 2018 released on Wednesday, the ranking of the Philippines fell from 51st in 2017 to 53rd spot.

In 2016, the Philippines was ranked 50th among 167 countries in terms of the quality of democracy.

EIU continues to classify the Philippines as having a “flawed democracy” along with 54 other countries.

Mr. Duterte voided last year the amnesty given to his vocal critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Proclamation 572 issued by Duterte called for the arrest of Trillanes and revival of the rebellion and coup d’état charges filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City.

Quo warranto warranted

Solicitor General Jose Calida ousted then Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court (SC) that questioned the validity of her appointment as chief magistrate as a result of her failure to fully disclose the required Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth when she applied for the top SC position in 2012.

Majority of the members of the 15-man SC voted for the ouster of Sereno thus creating a vacancy at the high bench. On 19 June 2018, Sereno’s ouster became final and executory.

A suit was also filed by government prosecutors asking the court to declare the communist New People’s Army as a terrorist group.

Guevarra said he does not consider the actions of the government undemocratic in any way, and the so-called intelligence report by the Economist should not bother the country at all.

Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Markk Perete also stressed that the government has not resorted to legal actions as a form of retaliation to get back at the opposition.

No plan to stop

He said legal action has been, and will be, taken as called for by the circumstances in each case and as dictated by the evidence at hand, regardless of the political affiliation of the party concerned.

An increase in Asia’s score on the 2018 democracy index was also noted in the report, but considered the legal attacks on the opposition in the Philippines as among the dampeners of democracy.

Other dampeners to democratic gains in Asia include the controversy over electoral irregularities in Pakistan and the sentencing of two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison in Myanmar for illegal possession of documents.

“All this served as a reminder that there is still a long way to go for democratic values to be entrenched in Asia,” the report said.

Full democracy

The latest report also indicated that only 20, or 12 percent, of 167 countries enjoy full democracies while only 4.5 percent of the world’s population live in a “full democracy.”

Norway is ranked No. 1 in the democracy index for 2018 while North Korea is in the last spot.

The EIU is the world’s leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis.

The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation, and political culture.

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