Reluctant Reviewers: Judicial Responses to Social and Economic Rights in Indonesia and the Philippines

A. Sen has argued that the law lacks proper purchase on economic and social rights because these rights impose “imperfect” obligations, involving complex decisions about standards and resources. Courts have tended to agree and traditionally been wary of enforcing these rights. However, courts in some developing countries jettisoned this tradition. The Indian and South African judiciaries have been particularly influential in this regard. This paper considers whether courts in Indonesia and the Philippines have followed suit. I examine how judiciaries in both countries navigated the challenge of reviewing socio-economic rights. I argue that the Indonesian Constitutional Court has been bolder than its counterpart in the Philippines in grappling with these rights. I trace the ways in which the Philippines Supreme Court has shied away from taking socio-economic rights seriously and point to aspects of each country’s constitution that influence their differing approaches to these rights.