Research group IBON Foundation welcomes the initiative of the Supreme Court to improve the poor’s access to justice through its nationwide summit today. However, it said that the country’s economic policies have the most far-reaching harmful impact that should be addressed beyond judicial review.

For one, existing judicial remedies are extremely limited in addressing the far-reaching economy-wide violations of human rights. This is aside from how nominally the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) recognizes economic, social and cultural rights matters as part of its mandate to monitor government’s compliance with international obligations, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

There also seems to be no concrete measures to apply the human rights approach to poverty reduction. For instance, the country has no official procedure that will assess economic policies according to an explicit economic, social and cultural rights framework. It also does not have specific mechanisms by which policy-makers can be held accountable for the effects of trade, investment and fiscal policies on human rights. Even the CHR does not have a monitoring of how economic, social and cultural rights are affected by macroeconomic policies, which have the broadest influence on realizing these rights.

As a result, the judiciary generally gives in to the Executive and Legislature on major economic policy decisions that are deemed unconstitutional, such as the Mining Act, Oil Deregulation Law, EPIRA etc., even as it is equally responsible for upholding constitutional guidelines.

IBON strongly recommends that the judiciary establish a legal framework wherein existing laws, rules, procedures and practices can be modified to conform with the ICESCR and the Philippine Constitution. Based on this, the SC should conduct a formal review to check if the country’s foreign trade and investment policies are consistent with its human rights obligations, and implement measures that will put these economic policies to public scrutiny.

Lasty, measures should be placed to ensure that the country’s main economic planners, trade negotiators, and lawmakers are fully aware of their obligations and commitments under the Covenant in crafting socioeconomic policies.


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