The Filipino people’s struggle for democratic rights has been waged together with their struggle for national liberation. The Malolos Constitution of 1899, which crystallized the aspirations of a free Philippine nation, included a bill of rights which guaranteed civil liberties to the people.
When US imperialism destroyed the first Philippine republic, the people’s democratic rights were suppressed. In resuming the fight for independence, the people raised the demand for democracy in terms of land reform and civil liberties. The puppet Commonwealth regime never carried out genuine land reform and allowed the exercise of civil liberties but only within the confines of ruling class politics and working for the US grant of independence.
A bill of rights was incorporated into the 1935 constitution but the exercise of democratic rights was basically denied to the people, especially the toiling masses of workers and peasants. Not only the Marcos fascist dictatorship but all other regimes under the puppet republic have made false promises about land reform and made a mockery of the bill of rights.
It was during the struggle against the fascist dictatorship though that the struggle for democratic rights gained more profound meaning and scope, drawing strength from our people’s militant and heroic struggles against landlordism and the wanton violations of civil and political liberties.
Subjected to the powerful popular pressure for democracy, the Aquino regime framed a constitution which gave formal recognition to a bill of rights which is more extensive than that provided in any previous Philippine constitution. But the exercise of democratic rights were negated by the continuing national and class oppression. The fascist structures built under the Marcos dictatorship were maintained. The total war policy of the Aquino regime resulted in widespread gross violations of human rights, even surpassing the record of the dictatorship in many areas. Now, we are confronted with a regime whose chieftain has been responsible for these violations since the time of Marcos.
History’s lesson is clear. The fundamental individual freedoms as well as the expanded human rights in the political, social and economic spheres can only be realized and can only flower under a condition of national freedom and class freedom for the oppressed classes. These freedoms will only thrive so long as a vigilant people is ready and willing to fight and die for them.
Upon the establishment of the people’s democratic republic, the democratic rights of the people, especially those most oppressed, shall be promoted, expanded and guaranteed. The main substance of democracy shall be realized through genuine and thoroughgoing land reform. The freedoms of the people shall be guaranteed by a democratic bill of rights and by the actual national and social liberation of the people. The basic democratic rights include the fundamental rights to free speech and free press; to freedom of thought and expression; to freedom of religious belief and practice; to free choice of domicile and movement. They also include the right to free association and assembly; to strike; to universal suffrage through secret ballot. The people will have the right to due process; protection against arbitrary arrest; guarantees against torture, solitary confinement and other inhuman forms of detention and punishment; right against self-incrimination and right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; right to equal protection of the law and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The new government shall guarantee the right to universal and free education, delivery of basic services, including health care.
Effective guarantees in the constitution and other political and institutional mechanisms shall be adopted to prevent the resurgence of autocracy, tyranny, military rule and other anti-people regimes. The people’s right to revolt against an oppressive and tyrannical regime shall be recognized.
The government shall guarantee the right to own the means of production and consumption that are obtained through land reform, honest labor and entrepreneurship, skill, inventiveness and intellectual merit. The right to intellectual property shall also be guaranteed. The right to own the means of production carries with it the social responsibility of using such ownership for the common good and should not mean the unbridled exploitation of other people.
There shall be full employment. The people shall be assured of gainful employment, livelihood and job security. No one shall be denied the right to work and equal pay because of discrimination due to nationality, creed, minority status, gender or sexual preference, or civil status. The new government shall guarantee the preferential right of the workers to form unions and participate in the management of enterprises. Academic freedom shall be guaranteed. Cultural workers, in particular, will be assured of the freedom of expression.
The rights of the Bangsa Moro, Cordillera peoples and other indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and the natural resources in these lands shall be recognized and guaranteed. The indigenous peoples shall be assured of participation and representation in the economic, political and social life and institutions of the nation, and their culture shall be accorded due respect.
The new government shall recognize and protect women’s rights in all fields of endeavor. All laws that discriminate against women and minority peoples shall be repealed.