ConCom to include socio-economic rights in proposed new charter

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ConCom chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno

By Camille A. Aguinaldo

The Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution plans to include socio-economic rights, namely the right to education, to health and to decent housing, in the new draft charter’s bill of rights.

“We thought that the protection of these second generation rights would be more robust if some of the socio-economic rights would be incorporated in the bill of rights,” ConCom chairman and former chief justice Reynato S. Puno said during a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

Under the present Constitution, no existing provisions in the bill of rights tackles socio-economic rights. It was only enumerated briefly under the Charter’s declaration of principles and state policies.

Mr. Puno said the inclusion of socio-economic rights in the bill of rights would take on a “progressive” approach. This meant the provisions in the draft charter would have to consider the capacity of government to meet its obligations under the proposed bill of rights.

“This should be done progressively in relation to the ability of the State to really enforce these socio-economic rights (and) to make this right demandable. So this means that Congress would have to look at the entirety of resources and see what can be given progressively to the people when they demand the enforcement of their socio-economic rights,” Mr. Puno said.

He added that the socio-economic rights provisions would encourage Congress “to make the proper appropriations” for its implementation and would make it demandable against the federal government.

“If we don’t do this, then the enforcement of these socio-economic rights will just remain as statement of policies,” he said.

The former chief magistrate added that the ConCom was inclined to adopt the model of South Africa which he deemed “proper and fit” for the Philippines.

The 1996 South African Constitution mandates the State to make basic and higher education “progressively available and accessible.”

It also enumerated the right to access “health care services, including reproductive health care, sufficient food and water,” as well as “social security.”

It also guarantees “the right to have access to adequate housing” and directs the State to take legislative action “to achieve the progressive realization” of the provision.

The inclusion on socio-economic rights as well as environmental rights provisions would be formulated by the Concom subcommittee on rights, obligations, social justice headed by Rodolfo D. Robles before it would be voted upon by the en banc next week.