Bill penalizes COVID-19-linked discrimination

THE House of Representatives is set to approve on final reading a measure that bans discrimination on persons, including health workers and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), suspected or confirmed to be positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Approved on second reading is House Bill 6817 or the CoVID 19 Related Anti-Discrimination Act through ayes and nays voting.

The bill is expected to be approved on third reading before Congress adjournment sine die next week.

The measure penalizes various acts deemed discriminatory in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the punishable offenses under the bill includes stigmatization, which entails the public disclosure – with the intent of exclusion, harm, and discrimination – that a person is declared confirmed, suspected or probable case of COVID-19 or has recovered from COVID-19.

Public disclosure made online is also covered by the bill.

The bill also outlaws verbally, physically or psychologically harassing, threatening or assaulting confirmed, suspected and probable COVID-19 patients as well as those who have recovered from this disease, including repatriated OFWs and health workers.

Likewise, the proposed law forbids a public officer from refusing or neglecting to provide  assistance to confirmed, suspected, and probable COVID1-19 cases or any person suspected of having been exposed to and has recovered from COVID-19.’

Moreover, no person can unreasonably refuse to honor valid and existing contracts on the basis of COVID-19, the bill added.

According to 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 million.

Also, violation of the measure on the grounds of stigmatization, failure to give assistance and unlawful refusal to honor valid contracts, will be penalized by 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.