MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday she would file a bill to penalize those who discriminate against health workers and other frontliners battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as soon as session resumes in May.
Hontiveros' statement came amid reports that hospital workers were being harassed in their communities, including being evicted from their houses or avoided in public places.
In late March, a health worker in Sultan Kudarat was doused with bleach.
"Hindi katanggap-tanggap na ang ating mga frontliners na lubos na nagsasakripisyo para iligtas ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan ay nagiging biktima pa ng diskriminasyon mula mismo sa kanilang mga komunidad," Hontiveros said in a statement.
(It is not acceptable that some of our frontliners who have been sacrificing to save the lives of our countrymen have become victims of discrimination in their communities.)
"They and other frontliners are heroes and should be treated with respect and compassion, not hate and suspicion," she said.
The bill will "establish clear mechanisms" on how frontliners can report those who discriminate against them, the senator said.
Hontiveros did not specify what proposed penalties await those found guilty of discrimination against frontliners.
While the bill has yet to be filed as Senate is still on its annual 2-month Holy Week break, the Department of Health and local government units should "invest in information campaigns that will dispel rumors and fake news regarding COVID-19, especially those that put the safety of health workers at risk," Hontiveros said.
Deploying more law enforcement authorities and providing free transportation to health workers may also help curb acts of violence against health workers and other frontliners, she said.
"Hindi sapat ang ating pasasalamat sa ating mga frontliners kung hahayaan lang natin silang masaktan o maabuso. Let us repay the hard work and selflessness of Filipinos fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that they are safe and welcome in our communities," she said.
As of April 7, at least 3 local government units - namely the cities of Manila, Parañaque and Iloilo - have passed city ordinances that prohibit discrimination against health workers and other COVID-19 fronliners.