No Turning Back on Human Rights; (Delivered on Aug. 25 2007 at Silliman University, Dumaguete City, during the University Convocation and Presentation of the 2007 Outstanding Silliman University Law Alumni Association (SULAW) Award to Prof. Rolando V. del Carmen and 19th SULAW General Assembly and Alumni Homecoming. the Chief Justice Was Likewise Conferred an Honorary Membership in the SULAW.)

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Byline: Chief Justice REYNATO S. PUNO

FIRST, allow me to thank Silliman University for inviting me to address this University Convocation on the occasion of its 106th founding anniversary. I also congratulate Dr. Rolando V. del Carmen for receiving his rare award. Lando is a good friend whose footsteps I have followed. When he attended the Southern Methodist University Law School of Dallas, Texas, to take up the Master of Comparative Law degree in 1964, I followed him a year after; when he enrolled at the University of California Law School, Berkeley, California, to pursue the Master of Law degree in 1965, I did the same the following year; when he went to the University of Illinois Law School at Champagne, Urbana, to get the Doctor of Juridical Science degree in 1966, I followed him the following year. Dr. Del Carmen is a legal scholar worthy of note in the United States. His book on Criminal Procedure is a bestseller in the United States with a long shelf life. It is now in its 8th edition, and I always consult it to find the latest wrinkle in American jurisprudence on criminal procedure.

Second, I wish to beg your dispensation for changing the topic of my message this morning. I was originally requested to deliver a disquisition on the theme Descending into Greatness. Considering the holy mystery embedded in the theme, I thought I would rather expostulate on it tomorrow when I to preach in the divine morning worship service. And so, allow me instead to talk about the march of human rights in the world and in the Philippines. Hopefully, we can appreciate how well we are addressing our human rights problems in comparison with the rest of the world.

The evolution of generations of human rights

I wish to start with the evolution of human rights. The first generation of human rights is in the form of individual and civil rights. These are rights essential to human nature or that inhere in all human beings as humans. Espoused as natural laws by the ancient Greeks at the beginning of the 18th century, these rights were limited to personal liberty, equality before the law, and the protection of property. The American Bill of Rights added freedom of religion, freedom of speech and of the press, right to peaceably assemble, and due process. In the 20th century, political rights were further expanded to include the right to vote, among others.

The second generation of human rights refers to social, economic and cultural rights. Among the rights included are the right to education, the right to health care, the right to strike, the right to bargain collectively, the right to work, and the right to cultural heritage. These rights bloomed as an aftermath of the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

In the past decades, a third generation of human rights has come into being. These partake of the nature of collective rights, like the right to have a healthy environment, the right to development, and the rights of indigenous communities. They are the offshoots of globalization.

There is a fourth generation of human rights still in the process of developing. I refer to the protection of the human genome and of genetic identity, as well as the rights that flow from informatics technology. They are the result of the ongoing revolution of knowledge.

The internationalization of human rights

Let me now go to the development of human rights, known as the internationalization of Human Rights.

Until the Second World War, the roots of human rights grew country-by-country. The growth was necessarily uneven, for the seeds of human rights sprout on different grounds differently. Some grounds were more suited than the others, considering the readiness of their people's culture and experience. At this stage, the protection of human rights depended largely on the will and pleasure of the sovereign ruler of each country. The horrors of the Holocaust, however, shattered this dependency, for Hitler showed to the world that the States themselves could be the predators of human rights. …