Better to be invited than to gatecrash | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

Better to be invited than to gatecrash

To an appreciative and responsive audience at the Tañada-Diokno School of Law of the De La Salle University, founding law dean Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno exclaimed days ago—during his professorial lecture sponsored by the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (FLP) and the Metrobank Foundation (MBF)—“Let us protect, respect and remedy (PRR) human rights.”

CITING A UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL RESOLUTION approved in 2011, the acclaimed academic said that “for the first time,” big business—in addition to the state—has become a “duty bearer” in articulating the “global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.”

Since then, the United Kingdom in 2013, followed by ABN AMRO (a large Dutch bank) in 2015, and France in 2017 developed “National Action Plans” (NAPs) showing that the PRR approach enhances a company’s reputation and brand value, expands customer bases, and builds effective employee relationships. After all, many multinationals are bigger than some sovereign states; ergo, they have the means and the obligation to uphold human rights.

While the Philippines has yet to develop a NAP, it has “aligned [itself] with international human rights standards” by ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several international covenants on civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. In fact, our Commission on Human Rights and our Securities and Exchange Commission have urged the inclusion of the PRR of human rights in the corporate manuals of publicly listed companies.


SIGNIFICANTLY, THE ILLUSTRIOUS DEAN EXPLAINED the necessity of engaging business in a friendly and nonconfrontational manner, avoiding as much as practicable, the notion that human rights are abhorrent to business, or that human rights holders cannot secure benefits except by quarreling. To move forward, he believes, and I agree, in the alternative modes of settlements like arbitration, mediation, and good offices, more than in litigations, strikes, and pickets. He concluded, “Combining human rights with business empowers business enterprises, their workers, consumers, vulnerable sectors of society, and the general public. Business, hand in hand with human rights, has the power to transform people’s lives and build a nation of liberty and prosperity.”

In my response, I said that the FLP supports the PRR approach proposed by Dean Diokno. Verily, human rights are an integral part of the more comprehensive Bill of Rights that FLP espouses in its philosophy of “safeguarding liberty and nurturing prosperity under the rule of law.” FLP is more “libertarian” in its approach that necessarily includes human rights.

Beyond human rights, it upholds the more positive constitutional “Declaration of Principles and State Policies.” Moreover, its espousal is circumscribed by the “rule of law,” meaning that everyone, regardless of political, social, and economic status, is to be treated equally in the observance and protection of constitutional rights. Libertarianism cannot coexist with authoritarianism where the authoritarian enacts, enforces, and interprets the law. In a libertarian regime, no one is more equal than others.

I also agree with Dean Diokno that nonconfrontational methods are more productive in getting private businesses to support the PRR of human rights, nay, of constitutional rights, state principles, and state policies. As a student, I was an activist, and as a lawyer, I was trained to litigate. But as I matured, I found that in business, as in every relationship, it is better to be invited than to gatecrash. Only when peaceful and noncombative ways prove ineffective should coercive and aggressive methods be resorted to.


FINALLY, THE FLP GOES BEYOND LIBERTY OF THE MIND; it delves equally into the liberty of the stomach. Hence, it joyously proclaims “freedom and food, justice and jobs, peace and development, the two must go together; one is useless without the other.” In pursuit of its philosophy, FLP sponsors 20 annual legal scholarships at P200,000 each (in partnership with the Tan Yan Kee Foundation); five “ESMEL” (entrepreneurship, sustainability, management, economics, and business law) fellowships at P450,000 each (with the Metro Pacific Investments Foundation); dissertation writing contests with a top prize of P350,000 plus 20 lesser awards (with the Ayala Corporation); a Professorial Chairs Program at P150,000 per well-researched lecture (with the MBF); and the Panganiban Educational Assistance Program for the poor (with Jollibee and Double Dragon).

Recently, FLP announced its two “ultimate projects:” (1) the Center for Liberty and Prosperity with an interactive, immersive, AI-powered, and tech-driven Museum for Liberty and Prosperity at its core; and (2) the Prosperity Fund that aims to help the poor help themselves through private entrepreneurship. Former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. and retired senior associate justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe co-chair the FLP Task Force to implement these two projects.


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TAGS: human rights

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