Proposed provisions in our Bill of Rights

The human rights guaranteed by international covenants to which the Philippines is a party as well by the generally accepted principles of international law shall form part of this Article.  Parliament may not derogate from these rights nor denounce these covenants.

The Philippines is a state-party to numerous human rights covenants that cover a variety of subjects: from international humanitarian law to the treatment and care of children and discrimination against women.  The present provision is consistent with Philippine jurisprudence.  In reference to the binding force of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Supreme Court, through Justice Antonio Carpio in Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. 104768 (July 21, 2003) held that even in the absence of constitutional provisions, the rights guaranteed by human rights treaties and customary law continued to be demandable rights.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno provides the answer in his Separate Opinion as to why these norms continue to bind despite the absence of constitutional guarantees: It is human reason that makes them concomitants of our humanity—and compromising on them is compromising our humanity.

Article 56 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is clear that the general rule is that there is no denunciation of treaties on human rights law:


1. A treaty which contains no provision regarding its termination and which does not provide for denunciation or withdrawal is not subject to denunciation or withdrawal unless:

(a) It is established that the parties intended to admit the possibility of denunciation or withdrawal; or

(b) A right of denunciation or withdrawal may be implied by the nature of the treaty.”

Aside from the fact that there is generally no denunciation of human rights treaties, is likewise true that many human rights treaties codify jus cogens or peremptory norms of international law from which there may be no derogation at all. 

The rights under this article are demandable against the State.  When violated by private persons and non-State agents, demand may be made on the State for redress.

Ever since People v. Marti, G.R. 81561 (January 18, 1991), it has become “settled jurisprudence” that “[i]n the absence of governmental interference, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be invoked against the State.”  This new section proposes to strengthen the rights of citizens against their transgression even by non-state agents.

In a every insightful treatise on the Constitution of India, Mahendra Pal Singh writes: “Fundamental rights may be violated by the State as much directly as indirectly.  While in the former case its officials or agencies violate them, in the latter it may let them be violated by others either through its inaction or active connivance.  The latter violation may be as injurious as the former.  In such cases, the State cannot escape its responsibility or liability for the protection of fundamental rights, on the plea that they are the actions of private individuals and not of the State.”

Topics: Human rights
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