Senate bill penalizes racial, religious discrimination

Franco Luna - The Philippine Star
Senate bill penalizes racial, religious discrimination
In this 2019 file photo, Teduray school children in Senamfledon receive school supplies and hot food during an outreach mission by soldiers and civic groups.
The STAR / John Unson, file

MANILA, Philippines — A Senate bill is seeking severe penalties for discrimination, including profiling and refusing service, based on race, religion or criminal record.

In filing Senate Bill No. 233, Sen. Robinhood Padilla stressed the need to protect the rights of all Filipinos, adding there is no room for discrimination, which he wants penalized with a jail term of at least six years, and a fine of at least P100,000.

Similar measures have already been filed in the upper chamber, including Senate Bill No. 108 or the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination bill filed by Sen. Grace Poe and Senate Bill No. 245 or the Anti-Discrimination bill filed by Sen. Loren Legarda, both of which are also pending in the committee level. 

"This bill lays down the prohibited and punishable acts of discrimination against a person, their relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or representative, when committed on the basis of race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion, or religious affiliation or beliefs, or being formerly incarcerated," the explanatory note reads.  

"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."

The bill does not tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.


The bill covers profiling and other acts of discrimination based on race, religion, or former incarceration in employment, education, access to public facilities, the delivery of goods and services, and  in the exercise of political rights like voting. 

It also mandates all private and public agencies, companies, organizations, educational institutions and training centers to create a "Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Committee" to probe violations.

Penalties for violations include fines of at least P100,000 up to P1 million, and jail term ranging from six to eight years.

Stiffer penalties are also explicitly outlined for 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.

READ: Cordillera IPs assert ownership of bahag, indigenous culture against misuse

Padilla says he experienced discrimination, too

Padilla, a Muslim convert, said in a statement sent to reporters that he himself has experienced discrimination on the basis of his religion, including difficulties in conducting business transactions. 

He also pointed to other incidents of discrimination including the memorandum of the Metro Manila police in 2020 to require the "identification" of Muslim students.

The neophyte senator was found guilty of illegal possession of firearms and sentenced to a maximum of eight years in jail in 1994. He was pardoned by then-President Fidel Ramos in 1997 and released from jail and was eventually given absolute pardon by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.



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