Philippine economy

Cebu City councilor wants new anti-discrimination ordinance to include frontliners

Ryan Macasero
Cebu City councilor wants new anti-discrimination ordinance to include frontliners
The Cebu provincial government also threatens to file cases against those who would harass and discriminate health workers battling the spread of the novel coronavirus

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak is proposing a new anti-discrimination ordinance that protects frontliners, following reports of harassment and attacks against health workers battling the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city.

Tumulak posted a draft of his ordinance on Facebook on Monday evening, March 30. 

“The Department of Health has received various reports regarding discrimination against frontliners such as being refused basic services like public transport, laundry service, refused entry to supermarket or grocery stores, or being evicted from their lodging or housing,” the ordinance read. 

Cebuano-language newspaper Banat News reported that men on motorcycles poured chlorine on a nurse who was walking home along Tres de Abril Street in this city on Friday evening, March 27. 

The draft ordinance would complement the 2012 anti-discrimination ordinance, although it is not an amendment to that act, which provides protection against discrimination and harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, health status, ethnicity, and religion.

City Councilor Alvin Dizon, author of Ordinance No. 2339 or the 2012 anti-discrimination ordinance,  told Rappler in a text message that the existing ordinance can already be invoked in cases of discrimination or harassment against health workers. 

“[The ordinance] prohibits on the basis of health status, gender, disability, etc…,” Dizon said. “We can use this ordinance to protect our health workers from all forms of discrimination amid the coronavirus pandemic,” he added.

But the new ordinance by Tumulak goes a step further than the 2012 ordinance and explicitly defines “frontliners” as doctors, nurses and other medical workers, and law enforcement.

The proposed ordinance will be discussed during the regular city council session on Wednesday, April 1.

In a press conference earlier on Monday, Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella said he “would not tolerate” discrimination against frontliners in the city.

As of Monday, Cebu City has at least 18 confirmed coronavirus cases and is on enhanced community quarantine or lockdown. (READ: Blowing of ship horns, ringing of church bells signal start Cebu City lockdown)

Protect frontliners

Meanwhile in Bogo City in northern Cebu, a homeowners association expressed their intent to expel from their subdivision doctors and nurses working in the provincial hospital. 

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said if they receive reports of evictions, discrimination, harassment or violence against health care workers, the provincial government would file cases on behalf of its frontliners. 

“They’ve put their own lives on the line to contain this coronavirus. That’s why this kind of move is infuriating, to think that there are those out there with no hearts who go and ostracize [nurses and doctors],” Garcia said in a statement in Cebuano on Saturday, March 28.

She reiterated her call to protect frontliners again on Monday, March 30.

“Let’s give them respect. Don’t mistreat those working in the hospitals,” Garcia said. 

Iloilo City already amended its anti-discrimination ordinance on March 24, after hospital management complained of its nurses getting evicted from their boarding houses and banned from eateries.

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.