human rights

House to soon pass bill penalizing discrimination vs race, ethnicity, religion

Mara Cepeda
House to soon pass bill penalizing discrimination vs race, ethnicity, religion
The measure does not cover discriminatory acts based on gender, which is covered under the still-pending SOGIE bill

The bill that would punish discriminatory acts based on race, ethnicity, and religion with jail time is one step away from hurdling the Philippine House of Representatives. 

On Tuesday, January 26, legislators passed on 2nd reading House Bill (HB) No. 8243 or the proposed “Equality and Non-Discrimination on Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Act” through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays.

This means HB 8243 – which bans a comprehensive list of discriminatory acts based on race, ethnicity, and religion – only needs to be passed on 3rd reading to get its final nod from the House. 

The bill, however, does not cover discriminatory acts based on gender, which are prohibited under the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) bill. The SOGIE bill is encountering strong opposition in the House committee on women and gender equality, where the measure is still pending. 

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If passed into law, HB 8243 would prohibit the following acts of discrimination when committed on the basis of race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, or religion beliefs:

  • Preventing the exercise of political rights of another, including the right to vote
  • Imposing “onerous terms” before these political rights are granted
  • Refusal to employ a qualified applicant
  • Denying or limiting access of an employee to work benefits and opportunities
  • Dismissal of an employee
  • Favoring another job applicant due to his or her race, ethnicity, or religion
  • Refusal to admit a student in a school
  • Denying or limiting access of a student to any benefit or privilege provided by the school
  • Failing to make reasonable efforts to make facilities accessible to people whose disabilities reduce their range of mobility
  • Refusal to supply goods or services to a person
  • Denial of access to medical or health services open to the general public
  • Denial of applications for license, clearance, certification or any other government document
  • Discrimination in the acquisition, possession, utilization, lease, or disposal of lands, including housing and other accommodations
  • Denial of entry or access to any facility and assembly that are open to the general public
  • Creating advertisements 

The bill bans advertisements that discriminate against a person’s race, ethnicity, or religion.

HB 8243 also prohibits the discriminatory portrayal of groups as religiously, racially, or ethnically inferior in learning institutions, books, learning materials, and teaching devices.

Speeches that promote hatred or violence against another person’s race, ethnicity, and religion would be banned as well.

The bill likewise penalizes acts whose goal is to impair or nullify a person’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes the “unnecessary, unjustified, illegal, and degrading” investigatory activities of the the police and the military.

Those who would incite others to commit these discriminatory acts would be found liable under the bill.

Depending on the circumstance and gravity of the offense, HB 8243 would punish violators with jail time between 30 days up to 6 months. They may also be required to pay a fine between P10,000 up to P100,000.

If the offender is a corporation, partnership, or association, then the officer or employee responsible for the discriminatory act would face the maximum penalty under the bill.

The bill would also impose the maximum punishment when the perpetrator is a parent, guardian, or relative within the second degree of consanguinity of the victim. The same penalty would be meted on a manager of an establishment which has no license to operate.

If the violator is a foreigner, then he or she would be deported immediately after the service of the sentence and would be perpetually barred from entering the Philippines. 

Administrative proceedings and sanctions would also be faced by any government department, agency, or office found guilty of committing the discriminatory acts.

HB 8243 also sets specific procedures for the reparations of the victims.

There’s still a long way to go before the bill becomes law, however. The Senate version of HB 8243 is still pending at the committee level. This anti-discrimination bill has to go through another 3 successful readings in the Senate before it can be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.