The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill 6492 or the proposed “Magna Carta on Religious Freedom Act”.
In his sponsorship speech, Manila 6th District Representative Benny Abante Jr. stressed the proposed bill is consistent with the duty of the State “to protect the right of every person to freedom of religion and liberty of conscience, as well as the free exercise or expression thereof”.
“HB 6492 is consistent with the duty of the State to protect the right of every person to freedom of religion and liberty of conscience, as well as the free exercise or expression thereof.”
“HB 6492 ensures that no act of the government or any of its agencies, instrumentalities, officers or employees shall burden, curtail, impinge or encroach on the person’s right to exercise one’s religious belief, freedom and liberty of conscience and the government must also prohibit any act by a person, natural or juridical, or any group of persons that burdens or encroaches on the said right,” explained Abante, the chair of the House Committee on Human Rights.
The bill would protect and promote the right of persons to choose their religion, exercise or express their beliefs, act in accordance with their conscience, propagate their religious beliefs, as well as their right against discrimination, among others.
These rights would be denied, regulated, burdened or curtailed if it would result in violence, and if it is necessary to protect public safety, public order, health, property and good morals.
Included in the prohibited acts stipulated under HB 6492 is threatening to prevent a person from changing one’s religion or transferring to another religious group.
Included in the prohibited acts stipulated under HB 6492 are
1) threatening to prevent a person from changing one’s religion or transferring to another religious group,
2) defaming, harassing, humiliating, or offending a person by reason of one’s belief or practice thereof,
3) obstructing the flow of and access to religious information, and
4) denying employment solely on the basis of religion.
First-time violators may face a fine of P100,000 up to P500,000 and an imprisonment of six years and one day to up to eight years.
Any subsequent violation would be penalized with a fine of P500,000 up to P2 million and an imprisonment of eight to ten years.
The Justice Secretary would be mandated to establish a toll-free number to provide timely and accurate response to queries on the rights to religious freedom.
Abante stressed that HB 6492 is “a significant opportunity for us, legislators, to step up in our game and steer the course of human rights towards a path that fully guarantees the exercise of our freedoms of religion or belief, of thought, and conscience, and our right to promote the protection of human rights”.