Muslims and other groups will soon be protected against discrimination if a bill filed by Sen. Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla is passed into law.
In filing Senate Bill 233, Padilla stressed the need to protect the rights of all Filipinos, adding there is no room for discrimination on the basis of race, religion or being formerly incarcerated persons.
The bill pushes severe penalties against discrimination, including a jail term of at least six years, and a fine of at least P100,000.
“This bill lays down the prohibited and punishable acts of discrimination against a person, his/her relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or representative, when committed on the basis of race, color, descent, national oe ethnic origin, religion, or religious affiliation or beliefs, or being formerly incarcerated,” said Padilla, who himself has experienced discrimination because of his religion.
“Regrettably, it is a reality that differing and adverse treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or even involvement with the justice system still exists in a democratic country like ours.
Like other nations around the world, social exclusion, intolerance and discrimination prevail and harm the basic rights of every member of our society… In order to ensure that every Filipino’s equality is preserved and human dignity is protected, the passage of this measure is earnestly sought,” he added.
Padilla had experienced difficulties in conducting business transactions because of his religion.
Worse, he said, there have been other incidents of discrimination including the memorandum of the Metro Manila police in 2019 to require the “identification” of Muslim students.
Covered by Padilla’s bill are acts of discrimination based on race, religion and being formerly incarcerated persons:
* Discrimination in the exercise of political rights including elections, in employment, in education and training, and in delivering goods and services;
* Discrimination in access to public places, facilities and public meetings;
* Engaging in “profiling”
To ensure compliance, all private and public agencies, companies, organizations, educational institutions and training centers shall create a “Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Committee” to probe violations.
For its part, the Commission on Human Rights will assist in drawing up processes to investigate and resolve cases of discrimination; and formulate guidelines to help discriminated parties find redress.
The CHR will also help in the filing of complaints against violators, and draw up a system of case referrals to the appropriate government agencies.
Penalties for violations include:
* A fine of at least P100,000, jail term of at least six years, or both for the first offense;
* A fine of P500,000 to P1 million, jail term of at least eight years, or both for subsequent offenses.
A fine of at least P500,000, a jail term of at least eight years, or both also await violators who are government officials; and officials of corporations that do not comply.
Foreigners who violate the measure face immediate deportation after serving their sentence, without further deportation proceedings.