The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill 8637 or the proposed “Anti-Racial, Ethnic and Religious Discrimination Act” which seeks to protect and enhance the rights of all people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, as well as remove cultural inequities.
The bill also aims to ensure that there will be free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without any form of discrimination or preference.
HB 8637 is principally authored by Reps. Jose Panganiban Jr. (ANAC-IP), Shernee Abubakar Tan (KUSUG-TAUSUG), Evelina Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon) and former Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman.
It declares that the State, as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, shall fulfill the following: (a) promote the general welfare of all people for the enjoyment of the blessings of democracy, (b) ensure prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty, as well as (c) recognize and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development, among others.
It defines discrimination as “an act involving distinction, exclusion, restriction, or reference made on the basis of race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion, or religious affiliation or beliefs, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing of the human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or civil life of a person.”
It mandates all agencies, corporations, companies, and educational institutions, as well as any individual providing employment, housing, education, and the delivery of basic goods and services to establish a Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Committee, which shall exercise administrative jurisdiction to investigate acts of discrimination.
The bill stipulates that failure to ensure its effective implementation shall be deemed refusal to address the issue of discrimination and shall be considered in itself as an act of discrimination.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), in coordination with the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, shall be mandated to deter acts of discrimination and assist, review and recommend procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of such acts.
With this, the CHR shall undertake the following functions: (a) ensure the creation of the committee on non-discrimination and equal opportunity, (b) monitor the implementation of the Act, (c) establish guidelines and mechanisms on legal remedies for the victims, (d) conduct consultations with indigenous peoples, ethno-linguistic groups and religious organizations/communities, and (e) assist in the filing of cases against violators.
The bill directs the CHR to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination, ensure adequate and legal representation for the complainants, as well as create an efficient system of case referrals to appropriate government agencies.
The bill directs the Commission on Human Rights to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination.
The CHR shall also coordinate with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education for the promotion of understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity in schools and other learning modalities. These agencies shall also ensure that all learning resources used in education programs are free from discriminatory content.
It shall be the responsibility of every individual, natural or juridical, to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunity for all persons. It calls for government officers and workers to be non-discriminatory in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
Violators of the proposed Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of 30 days to six months and/or a fine of P10,000 to P100,000, depending on the circumstances and gravity of the offense committed.
Violators shall be penalized with imprisonment of 30 days to six months and/or a fine of P10,000 to P100,000.
The bill also provides for the reparation of the victims, which includes restitution, compensation, and rehabilitation. These shall be determined by the courts, the administrative agency or quasi-judicial body.