ILOILO CITY -- Any deed of discrimination based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, ethnic origin, and religious beliefs is deemed unlawful in Iloilo City and anyone caught doing so will be penalized.

On Monday, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approved the “Anti-Discrimination” ordinance that carries a punishment of admonition and a penalty of PHP1,000 for the first offense; PHP2,000 for the second offense and imprisonment of not more than 10 days at the discretion of the court; and PHP3,000 and 15 days imprisonment on the third offense.

The ordinance defines that an act of discrimination is committed if the person is refused employment, refused admission in schools, refused entry in places open to general public, deprivation of abode or quarters, deprivation of the provision of goods and services, subjecting one to ridicule or insult, and doing acts that demeans the dignity and self-respect or a person because of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, ethnic origin, and religious beliefs.

It also mandates the creation of the anti-discrimination mediation and conciliation board to be chaired by the mayor. The board shall initiate the filing of cases against violators.

“This ordinance would help citizens to value differences including discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Councilor Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salar, author of the ordinance and chair of the SP Committee on Women and Family Relations.

She said the ordinance is not just for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community but also for other sectors such as religious groups.

“When we came to the Muslim community, they pointed out to us that they are really having hard time, especially when they came from Marawi after the war. There are some of them who came here and wanted to rent houses, the owners said 'yes', but when they found out that they came from another religious community, they would refuse (to rent out the house),” Salazar said.

Anti-discrimination advocate Justin Francis Bionat of the LGBT Iloilo Pride Team said that their community “has always been pushed to the side but they always stand up and stand taller”.

“LGBT advocates have always been determined to fight for our rights. This is the time that we show the whole world and the whole country that Iloilo City is the City of Love,” said Bionat, who openly declared his homosexuality.

Iloilo City has joined several major cities in the country in adopting the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, the most recent was Mandaluyong City.

Cebu, Quezon City, Davao and Baguio also have their anti-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual characteristics.

The Iloilo City Legal Office is given 60 days from approval to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations while the Public Information Office shall conduct an information drive 30 days from the approval.

The ordinance takes effect 10 days after its publication in local newspaper. (With Caihra Santillan and Rosilfa Andrea Mallada, OJT/PNA)