To show the country’s strong commitment to human rights, Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to accede to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR).
De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 898 urging the DFA to seriously consider adhering and adopting the OP-ICESCR which provides for a communications and inquiry procedures for individuals and groups whose rights may have been violated.
“Certain individuals and sectors are vulnerable to civil and political rights violations given their economic, social, and cultural conditions,” she said.
According to her, the lack of educational opportunities, unavailability or poor employment environment, and inadequate social protection mechanisms, among others, are more than enough proofs that certain rights may have been violated in our country.
“Grinding poverty still persists in our country, despite the considerable economic growth rate in recent years,” she added, mindful that an estimated 21.9 million Filipinos do not even have enough income to afford basic food and non-food needs.
In 1974, the Philippines became one of the 184 member-states of the United Nations that ratified the ICESCR which provides economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals and groups and guarantees enjoyment without discrimination.
As a main treaty in the United Nations human rights system, ICESCR also sets favorable work conditions, social security, protection of the family, adequate standards of living, education and benefits related to scientific and culture.
The OP-ICESCR, however, provides for communications and inquiry procedures allowing individuals and groups whose ESCR are violated to lodge complaints before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and allow it to initiate investigation.
“This means,” De Lima continued, “that if national courts fail to protect against specific violations of their economic, social and cultural rights, the people will be able to raise their case before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
De Lima, a former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, pointed out that the OP-ICESCR will clarify the State’s obligations with regard to human rights and contribute to the adoption of positive policy measures and access to justice at the national level.
“The OP-ICESCR can provide further impetus to the development and crafting of more meaningful laws and policies that uplift the dignity of all and strengthen the existing legal system that addresses the myriad issues related to the economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipinos,” she said.