Senator Robin Padilla (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Robin Padilla has filed a bill seeking to protect Muslims and other groups against discrimination.

In his Senate Bill 233, Padilla proposes to impose PHP500,000 to PHP1 million and at least eight years imprisonment “or both for subsequent offenses.”

Padilla, a Muslim, emphasized the need to protect the rights of all Filipinos, adding that there should be no room for discrimination based on race, religion, or being formerly incarcerated persons.

"This bill lays down the prohibited and punishable acts of discrimination against a person, his/her 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," Padilla said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said he himself has experienced discrimination like difficulties in conducting business transactions because of his religion.

"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... In order to ensure that every Filipino's equality is preserved and human dignity is protected, the passage of this measure is earnestly sought," he added.

Padilla said there have been other incidents of discrimination including the memorandum of the Metro Manila police in 2019 that requires the "identification" of Muslim students.

Aside from acts of discrimination based on race, religion and being formerly incarcerated persons, Padilla’s bill also includes discrimination in the exercise of political rights including elections, in employment, in education and training, and in delivering goods and services; in access to public places, facilities and public meetings; and engaging in "profiling".

To ensure compliance, all private and public agencies, companies, organizations, educational institutions and training centers shall create a "Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Committee" to probe violations.

Under the bill, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will assist in drawing up processes to investigate and resolve cases of discrimination; and formulate guidelines to help discriminated parties find redress.

The CHR will also help in the filing of complaints against violators, and draw up a system of case referrals to the appropriate government agencies.

The measure also seeks to impose a fine of at least PHP100,000 and jail term of at least six years, or both for the first offense.

A fine of at least PHP500,000, a jail term of at least eight years, or both also await 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. (PNA)