By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has renewed his efforts at passing a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law that covers some acts not covered under the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, or SOGIE, bill.
Angara filed Senate Bill No. 137, or the proposed Comprehensive Discrimination Act of 2019, as the upper chamber prepares for the opening of the 18th Congress.
The bill seeks to cover a wide range of discriminatory practices as possible, particularly on the basis of age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief or activity, political inclination or conviction, social class and even health status.
“Any form of discrimination threatens social stability and economic progress in the Philippines, making it imperative that discrimination—or any act that establishes, promotes and perpetuates standing inequalities and disregards the right to ‘equality of treatment’ afforded by the 1987 Constitution—be reduced,” Angara said in the explanatory note of the measure.
The measure not only covers sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions but also includes marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status or medical history, language, physical features and other status.
“Discrimination is a problem that is confined to a few people alone. It concerns everyone. No one should feel helpless when faced with discrimination. We appeal to our colleagues to support this bill,” Angara said in a statement.
Once passed into law, it would be deemed illegal for any person to commit any act that will promote and encourage stigma, including content in the media and educational textbooks.
The proposed anti-discrimination law also ensures that no person would be denied his political, civil and cultural rights.
Also under the measure, no person cannot be denied admission, honors or scholarships or be expelled from any educational institution on the basis of the protected attributes.
The bill also deems it illegal to deny the right to expression—whether in the form of speech, deportment, dress, bodily characteristics or choice of name.
“There have been instances in the past where transgender students were prohibited from taking part in their graduation rites for cross dressing. This is one example of discrimination,” Angara recalled.
Under the measure, a person cannot also be denied employment, refused promotion or even terminated on the basis of the rights; it also ensures that no person would be denied access to goods and services, including entry into an establishment on the basis of their status.
The bill prescribes a penalty of one to six years imprisonment and or fine of up to P500,000 for any person found to have committed acts of discrimination.
“Discrimination, in any shape or form, has no place in Philippine society,” Angara said.
“(It) remains a problem be it for women, children, persons with disabilities or the LGBTQ community. We are currently enjoying remarkable economic growth, but while there is still discrimination taking place, we cannot call ourselves a truly progressive nation,” Angara said.