House OKs bill penalizing discrimination vs COVID-19 frontliners, patients, repatriates
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 2, gave its final nod to the bill that would prohibit and penalize discriminating coronavirus frontliners, suspected and confirmed cases, as well as repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Voting 204-0-1, lawmakers approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 6817, which bars the discrimination of the following individuals affected or involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Confirmed, suspected, and probable cases of COVID-19
- Recovered coronavirus patients
- Frontliners, including healthcare and essential service workers, responders, and recognized volunteers
- Stranded individuals traveling from one local government unit to another
- Repatriated OFWs
- Families and household members of the individuals mentioned above
The bill punishes discriminatory practices against the said individuals, including failure to give assistance, harassment or assault, stigmatization, and unlawful refusal to honor valid and existing contracts.
For those found guilty of harassment or assault, the punishment is imprisonment between one year to 10 years, or a fine between P200,000 up to P1 million.
For all the other offenses, violators would be imprisoned for 6 months up to 5 years, or would be fined between P50,000 and P500,000.
The Senate version of HB 6817 is still pending at the committee level.
Several frontliners and COVID-19 cases have been experiencing discrimination in their communities in the past weeks. A health safety officer from the Philippine General Hospital and his sons were recently forced by their neighbors to leave their Quezon City home.
The Duterte government already threatened to take legal action against those who discriminate against frontliners fighting COVID-19, which has infected close to 19,000 people in the Philippines as of Tuesday.
Of the 36,000 OFWs repatriated back to the country, 24,000 have been struggling with delays and inefficiencies in testing and processing documents. This has forced the affected OFWs to remain in quarantine beyond the required period of 14 days. – Rappler.com