ConCom: Include education, health, housing included in Bill of Rights

To give the poor a more “effective tool” to fight poverty, the Consultative Committee (ConCom) to Review the 1987 Constitution will be proposing the inclusion of socioeconomic rights in the Bill of Rights of the new Constitution it is drafting.

Socioeconomic rights, which are classified under the second generation of rights, include adequate housing, food health care, education, social security and water.

Concom chair and former chief justice Reynato Puno said the inclusion of socioeconomic rights in the Bill of Rights will make these rights at par with first generation of rights, namely civil and political rights.

This means that they become guaranteed by and demandable from the state and that citizens may seek refuge in the courts anytime for their protection and for the enforcement of such rights.

"We have studied the evolution of human rights and it should be very evident to the eye that the protection that our Constitution gives to the entirety of human rights is insufficient as of now," Puno said in a press conference at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

Puno explained that in the current setup, only civil and political rights are being “comprehensively” protected while socioeconomic rights are left behind.

He pointed out that socioeconomic rights are only enumerated in a section in the Constitution that is separate from the Bill of Rights.

“What we have is a mere [Declaration of Principles and State Policies] with respect to these socioeconomic rights,” Puno said.

Puno explained that the decision to include socioeconomic rights in the Bill of Rights is aligned with developments in international humanitarian law.

He noted that the body is looking at some models, including those of South Africa and India, to fit the Philippines.


Education, health, and housing

The provisions to be proposed to the ConCom include the right to education, right to health, and right to decent housing.

Puno said that these were “the most urgent rights” in the poor sector.

“That would help the poor people in their fight for better life. If we do that then [we] are giving them a more effective tool in order to fight poverty,” Puno said.

“Poor people can make the proper demand. They can go to court in order to enforce these demandable rights. Now, they cannot go to court because the government does not have that duty to enforce these socioeconomic rights,” he added.

Puno cited an example of a citizen who is evicted from his home: “For instance, you have that kind of citizen, he is evicted, and the government has done absolutely nothing to improve his situation in life, then depending on the wording of the grant of that right, depending on how that will be incorporated in the bill of rights, he can use that as a handle to compel the government to do something.”