World Safest Countries: Philippines’ low ranking reminds us of these botched promises

July 12, 2021 - 2:41 PM
A police officer mans a checkpoint as the country's capital returns to stricter lockdown measures amid rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 29, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

When international magazine Global Finance on July 6 reported that the Philippines ranked 134th out of 134 countries in its Safety Index Score, it brought to mind the Duterte administration’s campaign promises of peace and order which are yet to be fulfilled.

The ranking that flunked the Philippines attempted to measure war and peace, personal security and natural disaster risk including risk factors unique to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Global Finance magazine’s safety index factors in risks of natural disaster with crime, terrorism and war to present a more rounded analysis of the world’s safest countries,” it said on its 2021 report.

The magazine listed the Philippines as among the countries with “serious civil conflict that have high risks from natural disaster” along with Nigeria, Yemen, and El Salvador.

It added that while they have “relatively low death tolls from COVID-19,” they “performed poorly in terms of safety overall.”

Other countries which outranked the Philippines are Bosnia and Herzegovina (130), Nigeria (131), Guatemala (132) and Colombia (135).

The Philippines also landed last in the magazine’s 2019 edition that ranked 128 countries, noting that it has “poor scores in peace, security, and prevalence of natural disasters.”

A glimpse of country’s situation

Philippines’ latest ranking did not surprise some Filipinos on social media who cited the anti-illegal drugs campaign and the government’s promise to curb criminality in a bid to bring “peace and order” to the country.

A Twitter user quoted the magazine’s three fundamental factors in weighing safety index and commented, “So much for the many promises of ‘peace and order’ with a broken heart emoji.

“And to think that in 2016, lots of Filipinos were fooled by the ‘ganito kami sa Davao’ narrative and believed that peace and order—which was the flagship of Du30’s campaign, will be translated into the national level,” another online user wrote.

Human Rights Watch‘s World Report 2021 said that the killings in the Philippines have “increased dramatically during the COVID-19 lockdown, rising by over 50 percent during April to July 2020 compared to the previous four months.”

“Threats and attacks, including killings, against left-wing political activists, environmental activists, community leaders, Indigenous peoples’ leaders, journalists, lawyers, and others rose in the past year,” the latest report read.

HRW said President Rodrigo Duterte has continued to “encourage the killings” in the country, citing that he ordered customs officials last year to kill alleged drug smugglers, among others.

“He also regularly denounced and dismissed groups that criticize the ‘war on drugs,’ accusing them of ‘weaponizing human rights,” its report said.

The harassment and killings of human rights defenders and activists in the country were also cited by the New York-based non-government organization.


Malacañang downplayed Global Finance’s latest report and said that it is “but one among many varied points of view.”

“We are not at war, and since the start of the strict implementation of community quarantine in March 2020, there was a significant decline in crimes per the Philippine National Police,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

Philippine National Police Chief General Guillermo Eleazar said that the institution is taking the safety index ranking as a challenge to do better in “improving peace and order in the country.”

“Peace and order are only some of the factors, because they include rural disasters and the effect of COVID-19 in our country,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we will take this latest ranking as a challenge to do more in terms of further improving the peace and order security in the country,” Eleazar added.

Global Finance said that it did not include countries “that were missing data in any of the categories” for ranking safety index in its 2021 report.

“These include countries like Bhutan, Belarus, and Sudan that do not have scores from the safety and tourism report while other countries like Kosovo and Somalia are missing data from the World Risk Report,” it explained.

The magazine also acknowledged that there are some countries that might not have credible figures when it comes to their pandemic-related data.

“These rankings and scores should be taken with a grain of salt compared to previous editions. While the fundamental factors rely on concise reports produced by NGOs and international organizations, the COVID-19 death tolls and the vaccination rates are largely based on self-reporting by governments,” it said.

“Countries like China, Tanzania, and Venezuela may not be producing credible figures. Another point of difficulty is that some governments may not be capable of gathering all the necessary data. In developing countries without standardized and modern government reporting structures, deaths can go unreported, making it impossible to measure death tolls accurately,” the magazine added.