MANILA - A lawmaker on Friday called for the passage of an anti-discrimination bill to provide safeguards for Muslims and other minorities against the contentious counterterrorism law.
"The passage of this bill, if it becomes a law, will somehow provide safeguards on the consequences of discriminatory systems especially in the implementation of the anti-terrorism law," Anak Mindanao (AMIN) party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan told ANC.
On Tuesday, the lower House approved on third and final reading House Bill 8243 or the Equality and Non-Discrimination on Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Act, which punishes discriminatory acts based on race, ethnicity and religion in the country.
A counterpart measure in the Senate is still pending at the committee level.
Sangcopan raised concern that Muslims and indigenous peoples would be "greatly affected" by the anti-terrorism law, which grants state forces sweeping powers to address terrorism.
She is part of a group of Muslim lawmakers, lawyers, and residents of Mindanao who questioned the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court in August.
They became the 22nd petitioners to challenge the new law, saying deep-seated prejudice and Islamophobia could only lead to more Muslims getting wrongly arrested.
"In Mindanao, especially in Muslim communities, it is a frequent occurrence that mosque-goers, Quran reciters, prayer-callers, even simple market vendors and truck drivers are dragged away by law enforcers--simply on suspicion that they are supporters, relatives, co-conspirators or active participants in acts of rebellion, kidnapping, and what now constitutes terrorism," the petition said citing reports of numerous Muslims mistakenly arrested and jailed.
Under the anti-discrimination bill, discrimination is considered as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference made on the basis of race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious affiliation or beliefs, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of a person’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field of the person’s public life.
Among those considered as discriminatory acts are refusing to admit a student in a school, denying a person access to medical services and denying a person entry to any facility that are open to general public.
Violators shall face fine of up to P100,000 and jail time of up to 6 months. The bill imposes maximum punishment when the perpetrators are in public service.
"We're looking forward that this will be considered. This is a long overdue law that should have been passed especially with the passage now of anti-terrorism law being implemented," Sangcopan said.