In a development that seeks to “eliminate all forms of discrimination and abuse, and will ensure equality among all sectors of society, as well as the promotion of gender consciousness and equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination that violates rights as provided under the Philippine Constitution,” the Bacolod City Sangguniang Panlungsod has passed on third and final reading and anti-discrimination ordinance.
Authored by Councilor Em Ang, the ordinance prohibits discrimination of a person because of gender, disability, age, health status, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion, and carries a penalty for those who violate it P5,000.00 and/or imprisonment of not more than one year upon the discretion of the court.
“Stigma and discrimination is still very much prevalent, especially (against) persons with disability, senior citizens, children, youth, people living with HIV, women, lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender, and people with different spiritual faith,” Ang said.
Listed under discriminatory acts are: denying a person access to any social or health program and service, admission to an education institution or imposing expulsion.
Also considered as violations is the consideration of disability, age, health status, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity and religion in the criteria for hiring, promotion and dismissal of personnel, and in the determination of employee compensation and other terms and conditions of employment unless otherwise necessary and inherent with the position.
The ordinance also prohibits verbal or non-verbal ridicule and vilification, including but not limited to bullying or hate speeches, of a person on account of disability age, health status, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity and religion.
More than a verbose local law, though, Section 5 of the ordinance specifically mandates the creation of programs to reduce discrimination and stigma to help the victims. The Bacolod City Government – through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in coordination with the Local Council for the Protection of Children (LCPC), the Bacolod City Gender and Development Council (BC GADC), Local Council for the Filipino Family (LCFF) and the Office of Persons with Disability Affairs (OPDA), the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) and the Local AIDS Council (LAC) – arebeing eyed to implement and institutionalize the programs.
The Technical Working Group (TWG) shall formulate the Implementing Rules and Regulations, identify the activities and programs to be conducted under the anti-discrimination programs and recommend measures for the proper implementation of the ordinance. Within 30 days from the approval of this ordinance, the necessary rules and regulations shall be issued by the TWG for the proper and effective implementation of the ordinance.
The funding for the establishment and implementation of the ordinance shall be allocated one percent from the Annual Investment Plan.
While the Department of Social Services and Development shall implement the programs stipulated in Section 5 of this ordinance; it will be assisted by the Bacolod City Police Office when dealing with violations. Any complaint filed shall first be lodged in the barangay concerned provided both parties are living on the same barangay, otherwise the case shall be filed in court for appropriate action.
Fines and fees collected pursuant to the enforcement of the herein ordinance shall accrue to the different programs of the City of Bacolod, 30% of which shall go to the Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD) in the form of a Trust Fund.
The passage of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Bacolod City also carries with it “the burden of educating the public on its provisions so as to achieve its aim of promoting not only tolerance but respect for individuals,” Ang ended.