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ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL GETS HOUSE PANEL OK

The House of Representatives has moved closer to passing a measure introduced by Camarines Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte that aims to prohibit and criminalize discrimination on various fronts. 

Villafuerte’s House Bill (HB) No. 4647 was among several legislative proposals consolidated and approved recently by the House committee on human rights that bans discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, color, sex, gender, religious expression and political opinion, among others.

“Any form of discrimination may be categorized as a crime against humanity and human dignity in that several international declarations promote equal treatment of all people and prevent discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and other status.”

“Under this measure, discriminatory acts such as inflicting stigma, denial of education, political, civil and cultural rights, right to work, access to goods and services, and the right to organize, inflicting harm on health, engaging in profiling, abuses by state and non-state agencies, and detention and confinement are strictly prohibited and will be met with corresponding penalties,” Villafuerte said. 

Villafuerte noted that there has been an increasing number of local statutes previously enacted to ensure equality, such as Republic Act (RA) No. 6725, which amended the Labor Code in order to strengthen the prohibition of discrimination against women with respect to terms and conditions of employment; and RA 7277, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. 

“While these pieces of legislation are excellent means to curb discrimination against women and persons with disability, there are still other sectors of Philippine society which suffer from oppression and maltreatment,” Villafuerte said. 

Villafuerte said discrimination should not be taken lightly as it affects the lives of its victims and creates a stigma “which undermines not only their psychological well-being but also deprives them of economic, political and social rights and access to opportunities.”

 “Any form of discrimination may be categorized as a crime against humanity and human dignity in that several international declarations promote equal treatment of all people and prevent discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and other status,” he said.

Based on news reports, the consolidated version of the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill also seeks to impose penalties on acts of discrimination that are “directly or indirectly based on the actual or perceived ethnicity, race, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, language, religious expression or belief, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth and other status.”

Under the bill, the penalty for such acts of discrimination will be imprisonment of six months to five years and/or a fine of P50,000 to P500,000, depending on the court.

“Oppression, maltreatment, and discrimination have no place in a civilized nation. More often than not, the hapless victims are left with an almost indelible scar and emotional trauma on their consciousness as a human being,” Villafuerte said as he welcomed the committee approval of the measure. 

According to reports, the consolidated bill also aims to prohibit discrimination based on disability, age, nationality, marital and family status, health status, place of residence, economic and social situation, maternity and pregnancy.

The denial of rights to political participation, organize, employment, education and training are also listed as specific acts of discrimination under the measure.

The bill provides penalties for acts that inflict stigma, vilification and ridicule; profiling; inflicting harm on health and well-being; abuses by state and non-state actors; and arbitrary detention and confinement against those identified by this measure, according to reports about the measure. 

Under the bill, the penalty for such acts of discrimination will be imprisonment of six months to five years and/or a fine of P50,000 to P500,000, depending on the court.

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