Right against excessive fines, cruel and inhuman punishments, Bill of Rights

1. Concept

Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. (Section 19[1], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

The employment of physical, psychological, or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law. (Section 19[2], Article III, Ibid.)

These rights – the right against torture, cruel, degrading, and inhuman punishment; and the rights to life and health – are all anchored on the State’s policy to value human dignity and to guarantee full respect for human rights.  (J. Leonen, Separate Opinion in in Re Urget Petition for the Release of Prisoners on Humanitarian Grounds in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, En Banc, G.R. No. 252117, 28 July 2020)

The constitutional rights to life and health, the prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and the State policy to guarantee full respect for human dignity are affirmed in the international laws and standards that bind us. These fundamental rights, anchored on the recognition of the inherent dignity of every human being, have acquired the status of universal application as jus cogens, or “compelling law.” (Ibid.)

Despite a few statutes and rules promoting the rehabilitation of offenders, our criminal justice system is primarily punitive, seeking to deter and penalize felonies and crimes through imprisonment and fines. Thus, t...


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