We do understand the need to review the Civil Code - designed to rule private relationships in a society- to adapt it to social developments in Puerto Rico. The new Code must result from a serene, thorough and comprehensive analysis, observing the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state.
The result of such an analysis cannot be contrary to the rights recognized in decisions by the Puerto Rican and the United States Supreme Courts. The island cannot go back on the milestones reached in the area of constitutional law, specifically, the right to privacy, recognized by current jurisprudence and legislation. The revision must be consistent with the comprehensive view on civil rights provided by the Puerto Rican Constitution.
The bill, recently approved in the House, will now go through public hearings in the Senate. That consideration should consider concerns expressed by several sectors, from human rights organizations to private sector representatives. The importance of the Civil Code imposes a thoughtful process that represents the best interest of all the citizens, free from particular preferences that may have potential negative effects for others.
It is really concerning that the Legislative Assembly is evaluating the Code –that impacts on every aspect of life- while voting other bills that affect reproductive rights and individual liberties. It also seems unwise that these issues are being discussed amid debates over budget and tax incentive measures.
The current version of the Civil Code, composed of four books, dates back to 1930 and underwent almost a hundred fragmented amendments until 2016. As approved in the House, the new Code would have six volumes. Book I draws everyone´s attention and raises questions and controversies since it defines people´s rights and their family relationships. Provisions in this book even cover the very definition of a person, that the new version approved in House, proposes to modify.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares anticipated his rejection to the proposal that bans surrogacy-assisted reproduction. Other provisions that also limit rights and freedoms, such as those that would allow a person to be held against his will for up to four months, under mental problems presumption, should be thoroughly examined.
Books II and III govern estate, property, modifications, and ways of acquiring property, respectively. While Book IV deals with obligations and contracts.
Almost a century since the current version was approved, the new Code should recognize scientific, technological and new business models, born of the digital age.
It should be noted that for the business sector, the version approved has the potential to change the business climate that Puerto Rico needs, particularly during the recovery period. They have also expressed concerns over the urgency to approve the document and the lack of information about the changes proposed.
We insist that the final version of the Civil Code must be the result of a serene, thoughtful and transparent debate.
The same applies to other bills that the legislature is considering in parallel. Particularly, those that affect vulnerable populations, such as children. That´s why it is regrettable that last night, the Senate rushed the approval of the bill that limits the right to abortion for minors.
Puerto Rico needs a Civil Code and laws consistent with it, that can lead to the best social coexistence because they provide people with fair conditions to relate and develop with respect and freedom. The Civil Code must be a tool to foster peaceful coexistence and harmonious progress in a society.