Constitution of Puerto Rico
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the controlling government document of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It is composed of nine articles detailing the structure of the government as well as the function of several of its institutions. The document also contains an extensive and specific Bill of Rights
Bill of rights
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. The term "bill of rights" originates from England, where it referred to the Bill of Rights 1689. Bills of rights may be entrenched or...

. Since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, the Puerto Rico Constitution is bound to adhere to the postulates of the U.S. Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 due to the Supremacy Clause
Supremacy Clause
Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Treaties, and Federal Statutes as "the supreme law of the land." The text decrees these to be the highest form of law in the U.S...

, and of relevant Federal legislation due to the Territorial Clause.

It was ratified by Puerto Rico's electorate in a referendum on March 3, 1952
Puerto Rican constitutional referendum, 1952
A referendum on a new constitution was held in Puerto Rico on 3 March 1951. It was approved by 81.9% of voters.-Results:...

, approved by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and the President in on July 3, 1952, and on July 10, 1952 the Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico reconvened and approved the conditions established by Public Law 82-447. On July 25, 1952, Governor Luis Muñoz Marín
Luis Muñoz Marín
Don José Luis Alberto Muñoz Marín was a Puerto Rican poet, journalist, and politician. Regarded as the "father of modern Puerto Rico," he was the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico. Muñoz Marín was the son of Luis Muñoz Rivera, a renowned autonomist leader...

 proclaimed that the constitution was in effect. July 25, which had been an official holiday in Puerto Rico commemorating the arrival of United States troops in Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898, is now known as Constitution Day
Constitution Day
Constitution Day is a holiday to honor the constitution of a country. Constitution Day is often celebrated on the anniversary of the signing, promulgation or adoption of the constitution, or in some cases, to commemorate the change to constitutional monarchy:...

. According to University of Puerto Rico Law Professor Antonio Fernós López-Cepero, Muñoz Marín chose July 25th for the proclamation of the Constitution with the intention of replacing the 1898 commemoration with the commemoration of the adoption of the constitution. In an article published on July 25, 2010, the late Professor Fernós López-Cepero stated to El Nuevo Dia newspaper that he heard this information from his father, the late Dr. Antonio Fernos Isern, who was the president of the Constitutional Convention in 1952.


The United States government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 approved Public Law 600, authorizing Puerto Rico to draft its own constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 in 1951. The Constitutional Assembly met for a period of several months between 1951 and 1952 in which the document was written. The framers had to follow only two basic requirements established under Public Law 600. The first was the document must establish a republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

an form of government for the island. The second was the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

The constitution was approved by a popular referendum and ratified by the United States Congress with a few amendments which maintains ultimate sovereignty over Puerto Rico while giving Puerto Ricans a high degree of autonomy. Under this Constitution, Puerto Rico officially designate themselves as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. However, an ongoing debate has existed since the creation of the document about the legal status of Puerto Rico under the Federal Government of the United States. The autonomy recognized to the island has been put into doubt following certain decision by the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 which have interpreted the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution as still controlling over Puerto Rico. Under this clause, the United States' Congress is the recognized sovereign of the island. In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court indicates that the purpose of Congress in the 1950 and 1952 legislation was to accord to Puerto Rico the degree of autonomy and independence normally associated with a State of the Union.


The Preamble of the Constitution of Puerto Rico is more extensive than the Preamble to the United States Constitution
Preamble to the United States Constitution
The Preamble to the United States Constitution is a brief introductory statement of the Constitution's fundamental purposes and guiding principles...

. However, it is similar in that it neither grants any powers nor inhibits any actions; it merely explains the rationale behind the Constitution. It states that democracy is fundamental to Puerto Rico, democratic government derives from the will of the people, human rights trump political order, and citizens are assured participation in collective decisions.

The Preamble also reinforces the link between Puerto Rico and the United States, as well as establishing the United States Constitution as the basis of the principles of the Puerto Rican Constitution.

Moreover, the Preamble alludes to the importance of education, justice, peace, equality, and a "hope for a better world based on these principles".

Article One: The Commonwealth

Article One establishes the new government for the island, which shall bear the name of Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It declares that the source of the power of the government emanates from the people. The following three sections of the Article establish the Republican form of government of the island, divided into three branches (legislative, executive and judicial) and specifies the territorial jurisdiction of the document as well as the seat of the new government, which shall be the city of San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan , officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista , is the capital and most populous municipality in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of...


Article Two: Bill of Rights

Article Two of the Constitution is known as the Bill of Rights of Puerto Rico. In order to comply with the requirements of Public Law 600, the framers of the Puerto Rican Constitution decided to draft an extensive list of rights which were then organized into a whole Article of the constitutional document. It is divided into nineteen sections, each one listing one or several rights which are deemed fundamental under Puerto Rican constitutional law
Constitutional law
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....


Section One begins by establishing that 'the dignity of the human being is inviolable' and that 'all men are equal before the law.'. These two sentences have traditionally been interpreted by scholars as granting an unlimited amount of rights, since anything that violates the dignity of a human being will be deemed unconstitutional. However, the remainder of the section concretely establishes the kinds of discriminations that are outlawed.
No discrimination shall be made on account of race, color, sex, birth, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas. Both the laws and the system of public education shall embody these principles of essential human equality.

Section Two establishes the right to vote in Puerto Rico;
Section 2. The laws shall guarantee the expression of the will of the people by means of equal, direct and secret universal suffrage and shall protect the citizen against any coercion in the exercise of the electoral franchise.

Section Three is the religious clause of the Puerto Rican Constitution. It prohibits the establishment of religion and protects the free exercise of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

. It reads;
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. There shall be complete separation of church and state.

The last sentence specifically and concretly establishes the separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

, a clause that is not found in the United States' Constitution but, rather, it is assumed and interpreted to exist. Section three leaves no doubt about the existence of such separation in Puerto Rico.

Section Four is very similar to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

. It establishes the freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, freedom of the press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

, freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests...

 and the right to petition
Right to petition
The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.-United States:...

. It reads;
No law shall be made abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Section Five establishes the right to an education. It also mandates the establishment of a non-sectarian and free educational system for the island. The section also establishes that education will be compulsory for elementary school, to the extent permitted by the facilities of the state. The section further establishes that no public property or public funds shall be used for the support of schools or educational institutions other than those of the state.

Section Six declares the right of the people to organize themselves in associations, except if the associations are military or quasi-military in nature.

Section Seven contain several important fundamental rights. It reads;
The right to life, liberty and the enjoyment of property is recognized as a fundamental right of man. The death penalty shall not exist. No person shall be deprived of his liberty or property without due process of law. No person in Puerto Rico shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. No laws impairing the obligation of contracts shall be enacted. A minimum amount of property and possessions shall be exempt from attachment as provided by law.

First, Section Seven establishes that the right to life is fundamental in Puerto Rico. Because of this, the section determines that the death penalty will not exist under the jurisdiction of the commonwealth.

Second, the section contains the due process of law as well as the equal protection clauses. Third, it includes a contract clause for the jurisdiction of the commonwealth. Finally, the sections guarantees that a minimum amount of the property own by individuals will be exempt from government possession.

Section Eight declares that every person has the right to be protected by law against attacks on his honor, reputation and private or family life. This section has been interpreted as creating a general right to privacy in Puerto Rico.

Section Nine creates more liberties for the press. It establishes that:
No law shall be enacted authorizing condemnation of printing presses, machinery or material devoted to publications of any kind. The buildings in which these objects are located may be condemned only after a judicial finding of public convenience and necessity pursuant to procedure that shall be provided by law, and may be taken before such ajudicial finding only when there is placed at the disposition of the publication an adequate site in which it can be installed and continue to operate for a reasonable time.

Section Ten is similar to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause...

. It establishes that persons shall be protected against "unreasonable searches and seizures". It explicitly prohibits the use of wire-tapping
Telephone tapping
Telephone tapping is the monitoring of telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wire tap received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was an actual electrical tap on the telephone line...

. Furthermore, it declares that no search-warrant shall be issued unless probable-cause is shown.

Section Eleven is primarily devoted to the rights of the accused.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have a speedy
Speedy trial
Speedy trial refers to one of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution to defendants in criminal proceedings. The right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, is intended to ensure that defendants are not subjected to unreasonably lengthy incarceration prior to a fair...

 and public trial
Public trial
Public trial or open trial is a trial open to public, as opposed to the secret trial. The term should not be confused with show trial.-United States:...

, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation and to have a copy thereof, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have assistance of counsel, and to be presumed innocent.

It also establishes that in all trials of felony the accused shall enjoy of a jury of twelve peers who render a verdict by majority vote in which no less than nine shall concur. Also, the section creates the right against self-incrimination as well as the prohibition of double jeopardy
Double jeopardy
Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same, or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction...


Section Twelve outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, unless duly convicted. It also prohibits ex post facto laws and bills of attainder.

Section Thirteen guarantees the writ of habeas corpus, which can only be suspended by the Legislative Assembly in time of "rebellion, insurrection or invasion."

Section Fourteen prohibits the use of titles of nobility. It also prohibits public officials to receive gifts from foreign powers without the approval of the Legislative Assembly.

Section Fifteen deals with child labor
Child labor
Child labour refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries...

. It prohibits the employment of children of less than fourteen years on jobs that may be "prejudicial to their health or morals". It also guarantees that no children under the age of sixteen shall be kept in jail.

Section Seventeen creates the fundamental right of employees, private and public, to organize themselves into associations and to negotiate with their employers. Section Eighteen also declares a fundamental right for employers to go on strike. However, the section ends by stating; "Nothing herein contained shall impair the authority of the Legislative Assembly to enact laws to deal with grave emergencies that clearly imperil the public health or safety or essential public services."

Section Nineteen is similar to the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, addresses rights of the people that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.-Text:-Adoption:When the U.S...

. It reads;
The foregoing enumeration of rights shall not be construed restrictively nor does it contemplate the exclusion of other rights not specifically mentioned which belong to the people in a democracy. The power of the Legislative Assembly to enact laws for the protection of the life, health and general welfare of the people shall likewise not be construed restrictively.

This section stresses out that the civil rights and liberties outlined in this Bill of Rights do not constitute an exclusive list thereof; others may exist. In other words, just because a civil right is not listed here, does not mean that the people do not have it. This is a safeguard against strict literal interpretations of the constitution with which the people will be denied all the rights not specifically listed here, such as a right to travel between districts at their own leisure (see propiska
Propiska was both a residence permit and migration recording tool in the Russian Empire before 1917 and from 1930s in the Soviet Union. It was documented in local police registers and certified with a stamp in internal passports....

), or the right to travel abroad.

Article Three: Legislative power

Article 3 establishes the legislative power in Puerto Rico, which is vested in a bicameral
In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

 legislature that bears the name Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico
Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico
The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The structure and responsibilities of the Legislative Assembly are defined in Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico....

. The two houses that compose this Assembly are the Senate
Senate of Puerto Rico
The Senate of Puerto Rico is the upper house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the territorial legislature of Puerto Rico. The Senate is composed of 27 senators, representing eight constituent senatorial districts across the commonwealth, with two senators elected per district; an...

, with 27 members, and the House of Representatives
House of Representatives of Puerto Rico
The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico is the lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the territorial legislature of Puerto Rico...

 of 51 members.

Article Seven: Amendments to the Constitution

Article 7 established the rules to performed amendments to the constitution, the Legislative Assembly may propose amendments to this Constitution by a concurrent resolution approved by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of which each house is composed. All proposed amendments shall be submitted to the qualified electors in a special referendum, but if the concurrent resolution is approved by not less than three-fourths of the total number of members of which each house is composed, the Legislative Assembly may provide that the referendum shall be held at the same time as the next general election. Each proposed amendment shall be voted on separately and not more than three proposed amendments may be submitted at the same referendum. Every proposed amendment shall specify the terms under which it shall take effect, and it shall become a part of this Constitution if it is ratified by a majority of the electors voting thereon.

The section 3 indicates that no amendment to this Constitution shall alter the republican form of government established by it or abolish its bill of rights.*
  • By Resolution number 34, approved by the Constitutional Convention and ratified in the Referendum held on November 4, 1952, the following new sentence was added to section 3 of article VII: "Any amendment or revision of this constitution shall be consistent with the resolution enacted by the applicable provisions of the Constitution of the United States, with the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and with Public Law 600, Eighty-first Congress
    81st United States Congress
    The Eighty-first United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives...

    , adopted in the nature of a compact".

See also

  • Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico
  • Government of Puerto Rico
    Government of Puerto Rico
    The Government of Puerto Rico is a republican form of government subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution...

  • Commonwealth (U.S. state)
  • Commonwealth (U.S. insular area)

External links

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