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Meaning of the Bill of Rights

1. From the foregoing, it is not difficult to understand that the Bill of Rights refers to the declaration and
enumeration of the fundamental civil and political rights of a person with the primary purpose of
safeguarding the person from violations by the government, as well as by individuals and group of
individuals. It includes the protection of the following rights:

a. Civil rights or those rights belonging to individuals by virtue of their citizenship, such as
freedom to contract, right to property, and marriage among others;
b. Political rights which are rights pertaining to the citizenship of the individual vis-à-vis the
administration of the government, such as right of suffrage right to hold office, and right
to petition for redress of wrong;
c. Socio-economic rights or those which ensure the well-being and economic security of an
individual; and
d. Rights of the accused which refer to protections given to the person of an accused in any
criminal case.

2. It must be noted that the restriction provided in the Bill of Rights is directed against the
government, so that it does not govern private relations. As far as the Constitution is concerned,
Article III can be invoked only against the government. Nonetheless, with the inclusion of almost
all the constitutional rights in Article 32 of the Civil Code, the same may now be invoked in civil
cases involving relations between private persons. Thus, the definition above indicates that the bill
of rights is a safeguard not just against the abuses of the government but also of individuals or
group of individuals.


Life, Liberty, and Property

1. Constitutional Provision. Section 1, Article III of the Constitution states “No person shall be deprived
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal
protection of the laws.” The provision speaks of “due process” and “equal protection.”
2. Scope of Protection. The protection covers all persons, whether citizens or aliens, natural or juridical.
3. Meaning of Life, Liberty, and Property. Due process and equal protection cover the right to life, liberty,
and property. It is important therefore to know the meaning of the three.
a. Life. When the constitution speaks of right to life, it refers not just to physical safety but also to
the importance of quality of life. Thus, right to life means right to be alive, right to one’s limbs
against physical harm, and, equally important, right to a good quality of life.[2] Life means
something more than mere animal existence.[3]

b. Liberty. It includes “negative” and “positive” freedom. Negative freedom means freedom from,
or absence of, physical constraints, while positive freedom means freedom to exercise one’s
faculties. Right to liberty therefore includes the two aspects of freedom and it cannot be
dwarfed into mere freedom from physical restraint or servitude, but is deemed to embrace the
right of man to enjoy his God-given faculties in all lawful ways, to live and work where he will,
to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling, to pursue any vocation, and enter into contracts.[4]
c. Property. It refers either to the thing itself or right over the thing. As a thing, property is
anything capable of appropriation, and it could be personal or real. As a right, it refers to right
to own, use, possess, alienate, or destroy the thing. The constitution uses property in the sense
of right, and as such it includes, among others, right to work, one’s employment, profession,
trade, and other vested rights. It is important to note however that privileges like licenses are
not protected property; but they may evolve in a protected right if much is invested in them as
means of livelihood. Public office is not also a property; but to the extent that security of tenure
cannot be compromised without due process, it is in a limited sense analogous to property.[5]
4. These rights are intimately connected. For example, if one’s property right over employment is taken
away, the same will adversely affect one’s right to life since quality of living is jeopardized.
Consequently, in the absence of property and a good quality of life, the ability to do what one wants
is impeded.

5. Hierarchy of Rights. While the rights are intimately related, they have a hierarchy. As to their order
of importance, right to life comes first, followed by right to liberty, and then right of property.

Due Process

1. Meaning. Due process of law is a constitutional guarantee against hasty and unsupported
deprivation of some person’s life, liberty, or property by the government. While is it true that the
state can deprive its citizens of their life, liberty, or property, it must do so in observance of due
process of law. This right is “the embodiment of the supporting idea of fair play”[6] and its essence
is that it is “a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders
judgment only after trial.”[7]
2. When Invoked. The right is invoked when the act of the government is arbitrary, oppressive,
whimsical, or unreasonable. It is particularly directed against the acts of executive and legislative
3. Two Aspects of Due Process. Due process of law has two aspects: procedural and substantive. Basically,
the procedural aspect involves the method or manner by which the law is enforced, while the
substantive aspect involves the law itself which must be fair, reasonable, and just.
4. Procedural due process requires, essentially, the opportunity to be heard in which every citizen is
given the chance to defend himself or explain his side through the protection of general rules of
procedure. It contemplates notice and opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered.
(a) In judicial proceedings, the requirements of procedural due process are:[8]

a. An impartial or objective court or tribunal with jurisdiction over the subject matter;

b. Court with jurisdiction over the person of the defendant or the property which is the subject of
the proceeding;

c. Defendant given the opportunity to be heard (requirement on notice and hearing); and

d. Judgment rendered after lawful hearing.

Since some cases are decided by administrative bodies, the Court also provides requirements of
procedural due process in administrative proceedings. These requirements, also known as “seven
cardinal primary rights,” are:[9]

a. The right to a hearing, where a party may present evidence in support of his case;

b. The tribunal must consider the evidence presented;

c. The decision of the tribunal must be supported by evidence;

d. The evidence must be substantial. Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a

reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;

e. The evidence must have been presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and
known to the parties affected;

f. The tribunal or body or any of its judges must rely on its own independent
consideration of evidence, and not rely on the recommendation of a subordinate; and

g. The decision must state the facts and the law in such a way that the parties are apprised of the
issues involved and the reasons for the decision.

5. Notice and Opportunity to be Heard. What matters in procedural due process are notice and
an opportunity to be heard.
a. Notice. This is an essential element of procedural due process, most especially in judicial
proceedings, because without notice the court will not acquire jurisdiction and its judgment
will not bind the defendant. The purpose of the notice is to inform the defendant of the nature
and character of the case filed against him, and more importantly, to give him a fair
opportunity to prepare his defense. Nevertheless, the notice is useless without the opportunity
to be heard.
b. Opportunity to be Heard. It must be emphasized that what is required is not “actual” hearing but
a real “opportunity” to be heard.[10] If, for instance, a person fails to actually appear in a
hearing even though he was given the chance to do so, a decision rendered by the court is not
in violation of due process. Moreover, strict observance of the rule is not necessary, especially
in administrative cases. In fact, in administrative proceedings, notice and hearing may be

dispensed with for public need or for practical reasons. It is also sufficient that subsequent
hearing is held if the same was not previously satisfied.

6. Substantive due process requires that the law itself is valid, fair, reasonable, and just. For the law
to be fair and reasonable it must have a valid objective which is pursued in a lawful manner. The
objective of the government is valid when it pertains to the interest of the general public, as
distinguished from those of a particular class. The manner of pursuing the objective is lawful if the
means employed are reasonably necessary and not unduly oppressive.

7. Under the doctrine of void for vagueness, a statute or law that is vague is void because it violates the
rights to due process. A statute is vague when it lacks comprehensible standards which men of
ordinary intelligence must necessarily know as to its common meaning but differ as to its
application. Such kind of statute is opposed to the Constitution because it fails to accord persons
proper understanding or fair notice, and because the government is given unbridled freedom to
carry out its provision. For this doctrine to be operative, however, the statute must be utterly vague.
Thus, if a law, for example, could be interpreted and applied in various ways, it is void because of
vagueness. Corollary to this is the doctrine of overbreadth which states that a statute that is “overly
broad” is void. This is because it prevents a person from exercising his constitutional rights, as it
fails to give an adequate warning or boundary between what is constitutionally permissive and not.
If a law, for instance, prohibits a bystander from doing any “annoying act” to passersby, the law is
void because “annoying act” could mean anything to a passerby and as such, overly broad.

Equal Protection
1. Meaning. The guarantee of equal protection means that “no person or class of persons shall be
deprived of the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in
the same place and in like circumstances.”[11] It means that “all persons or things similarly
situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed.” The
guarantee does not provide absolute equality of rights or indiscriminate operation on persons.
Persons or things that are differently situated may thus be treated differently. Equality only applies
among equals. What is prohibited by the guarantee is the discriminatory legislation which treats
differently or favors others when both are similarly situated.
2. Purpose. The purpose of the guarantee is to prohibit hostile discrimination or undue favor to
anyone, or giving special privilege when it is not reasonable or justified.
3. Reasonable Classification. Well established is the rule that reasonable classificationdoes not violate
the guarantee, provided that the classification has the following requisites:[12]
a. It must be based upon substantial distinctions;
b. It must be germane to the purpose of the law;
c. It must not be limited to existing conditions only; and
d. It must apply equally to all members of the class.

4. Example. In one case,[13] Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code was challenged for being
unconstitutional, as it is violative of the equal protection clause. The provision distinguishes
between an elective official and an appointive official in the filing of their certificate of candidacy.
While elective officials are not deemed resigned upon the filing their certificates, appointive
officials are. The Supreme Court held that the law is constitutional and not violative of equal
protection since the classification is valid. The Court argues that elective office is different from
appointive office, in that the mandate of the former is from the people, while that of the latter is
from the appointing authority. The term of the elective officials are likewise longer than that of the
appointive officials. Thus, the classification is adjudged reasonable and valid.

5. Discrimination against Aliens. Although the protection extends to both citizens and aliens,
discrimination against aliens may be held valid under certain circumstances. For example, citizens
by virtue of their membership to the political community possess complete civil and political
rights, while aliens do not have complete political rights. The former can vote during elections, run
for public office, own real property, while aliens cannot.

6. Review of Laws. If the laws are scrutinized by the court, it said to be subject to “judicial review.”
There are three standards followed by the court in judicial review, these are:
a. Deferential review in which laws are upheld to be valid or consistent to the guarantee of equal
protection when they are rational and the classifications therein bear a relation to a legitimate
governmental interests or purpose. In here the courts do not seriously inquire into the
substantiality of the interest and possibility of alternative means to achieve the objectives;
b. Intermediate review in which the substantiality of the governmental interest is closely
scrutinized as well as the availability of less restrictive means or alternatives. This standard is
used if the classification involves important but not fundamental interests; and
c. Strict scrutiny in which the government is required to show the presence of a compelling
government interest, rather than a mere substantial interest, and the absence of a less
restrictive means for achieving the interest. Upon showing of these requirements, the
limitation of a fundamental constitutional right is justified. This standard is used if the law
classifies persons and limits others of their exercise of fundamental rights.