That Manila had to enact anti-discriminatory law on COVID-19 is sad

BEFORE weekend, the city government of Manila came up with a new local law making it unlawful and punishable either by fine or jailterm or both, any form of action or utterances that may be tantamount to causing stigma on or discriminating against health frontliners and patients who have either recovered from the COVID 19 or have been classified as persons under monitoring (PUMs) or persons under investigation (PUIs).

While our paper was fortunate to have gotten a copy of the said ordinance and thus published its basic essence in the hope that people committing such prohibition will immediately know and stop what they are doing, we would like to inform our readers that there were several provisions added in the final outcome.

The passage of the said measure, now known as the ‘Anti- Covid 19 Discrimination Ordinance of 2020,’ was initiated by no less than Mayor Isko Moreno himself. He had requested its swift passage to the Manila City Council, headed by Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna as its Presiding Officer, President Pro Tempore Ernesto ‘Jong’’ Isip, Jr. and Majority Floorleader Joel Chua who happen to be both lawyers and City Council members.

Moreno said he was particularly bothered and spurred by numerous complaints about healthcare workers and  COVID 19 patients or possible patients being subjected to various kinds of discrimination or stigmatization, without any regard to their contribution in keeping the people stricken by the virus well attended.

Among others, the mayor notes reports of medical workers being doused with water or bleaching formula by paranoid people even as some of them, along with patients, are  being evicted from their residences as if they bring doom to whoever they come across with.

Under the ordinance, any person is prohibited from ‘committing any act or utterance  which causes stigma, disgrace, shame, humiliation, harassment or otherwise discriminating against a person infected, under monitoring or investigation due to the COVID-19 virus including public and private doctors, nurses, health workers, emergency personnel and volunteers, service workers who are assigned to hospitals or other center where these persons are being treated and imposing the appropriate penalties therein.’

To put teeth to his calls against stigmatization and discrimination, a fine of P5,000 or  a jailterm not exceeding six months or both at the court’s discretion await the violators. The maxixum penalty will be applied  if the violator happens to be a public officer.

This a good move in that the continued discrimination of those with little or no knowledge of the consequences of what they do will not only demoralize our already exhausted health workers and dissuade those with symptoms from ever coming out and getting medical help for fear of being ostracized.

Any public officer who refuses or fails to give assistance to a person infected, under investigation or monitoring due to Covid-19, health worker or frontliner who intends to return to his place of residence or domicile after obtaining clearance of the  infection from the proper health officials is liable under the ordinance.

Ditto with those who engage in false and inaccurate social media posts where they spread names of people alleged to have been infected with COVID-19 and even urging the recipients to check if they had contact with those listed in the said posts.

‘Considering the gravity of the situation, there is an urgent need to combat this pervasive stigmatization on the basis of one’s medical condition. There is a need for the city government to bring normalcy and order amidst the crisis and protect its constituency from unjust discrimination brought on by fear and panic by the public,’ Moreno stressed.

It’s just said that Moreno had to come up with a way to penalize these kinds of people who only add up to the mounting problems brought about by COVID 19. Pray that you don’t become a victim and know first hand the negative effects of your ungrateful attitude towards health workers and lack of empathy on those who got infected or may be infected.

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