HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Wednesday lauded his colleagues for approving on third and final reading the Anti-Discrimination Bill to protect the Filipino people, including health workers and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), against all forms of discrimination during coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my colleagues for their hard work and commitment to pass this measure aimed at protecting the people from all forms of discrimination,” said Romualdez, co-chairperson of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC) with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, after lawmakers voted to approve on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 6817 or the “COVID-19-Related Anti Discrimination Act.”
Romualdez stayed at the Session Hall until the virtual session was suspended 11:59 p.m. Tuesday or after nine hours proceeding, resulting to the passage of several important measures, including the Anti-Discrimination Bill with 204 votes in favor of its passage, one abstention and no opposition.
“While boosting our country's economic potential, we also approved a bill that aims to protect the life and limb of our health workers now in the frontline of our war against COVID-19. We are moving to grant them full and inviolable protection against all forms of prejudice and discrimination as they continue to provide medical care, logistical, and service support to our people in this age of pandemic,” said Romualdez, chairman of tne powerful House committee on rules.
Quezon City Rep. Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, principal author of the measure, said the proposed law aims at preventing COVID-19 related discrimination and providing much-needed protection for frontliners and OFWs.
“House Bill 6817, or the COVID-19 Related Discrimination Act, will help put an end to discriminatory practices against frontliners, service workers, health personnel, and even repatriated OFWs,” said Belmonte.
The bill provides penalties for stigmatization, harassment, assault, and unreasonable refusal to honor valid and existing contracts on the basis of COVID-19.
It will also ensure that no public officer shall refuse or neglect to render assistance to persons who are either suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
“The country has been most vocal in thanking those who serve in these most trying times,” said Belmonte. “The best way of expressing our gratitude, however, is by providing those in the frontlines with lasting protection so that they may never again have to endure unwarranted hardships on the basis of their profession.”
As of June 2, 2020, the Department of Health (DoH) has reported that there are 18,997 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with 966 deaths and 4,063 recoveries.
The Anti-Discrimination Bill prohibits physical, verbal, or psychological harassment against person who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, healthcare workers and service providers.
It seeks to grant full, inviolable protection against prejudice and discrimination to those who have already suffered and recovered from COVID-19, those who carry the brunt providing medical care, logistical and service support.
It also seeks to recognize the dignity and heroism of the work of health workers, responders and service workers.
It also prohibits a public officer from refusing or neglecting to provide assistance to confirmed, suspected, and probable COVID-19 cases or any person suspected of having been exposed to and has recovered from COVID-19.
Under the bill, a person who commits harassment or assault shall, upon conviction, be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 10 years or a fine of not less than P200,000 but to more than P1,000,000.
In the case of violating the measure on the grounds of stigmatization, failure to give assistance, and unlawful refusal to honor valid contracts, it will be slapped with a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P500,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than five years.
House Assistant Majority Leader and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Nina Taduran called on all barangay leaders to strictly enforce wearing face masks and social distancing in their communities in the midst of the relaxed community quarantine.
Taduran said barangay should more than ever be stern with the health protocols as more people are moving outside for work.
“We are still in quarantine and Covid-19 is still around us. The numbers of affected are still rising. Barangays should be roving around to check the enforcement of health protocols in their communities. Provide masks and sanitizers to the frontliners especially the food vendors who continue to sell in the streets,” said Taduran.
Taduran also asked the barangays to post printed materials in local dialects in their communities containing COVID-19 information and reminders.
“Kailangang ulit-ulitin sa tao na ang virus ay nandito pa rin sa paligid natin, at ang tanging panlaban natin ngayon ay ang disiplina sa ating sarili. Wear face mask, sanitize, practice social distancing and keep a healthy lifestyle,” Taduran stressed.
The lawmaker has been continuously donating personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks and sanitizers to hospitals and communities.
“We cannot do it for everyone so I ask the barangays to do their jobs,” said Taduran.