MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday urged all local government units (LGUs) nationwide to pass and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment ordinances to protect front-line workers fighting against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“We are alarmed by the reports that reach our office on the harassment and discrimination experienced by our front-line workers including health professionals, police, military, essential services personnel, and government and non-government social workers. Sila pa naman ang mga bayani sa gitna ng laban sa Covid-19 subalit nakararanas at iniinda pa nila ang diskriminasyon at (They are the heroes in the midst of the battle against Covid-19 and yet they experience and endure discrimination and) harassment,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said in a press release.
He said LGUs should act swiftly and enact or issue the necessary directive to safeguard those working in the front line “who are laying their lives on the line for our general well-being.
Año said it’s been almost a month since a state of public health emergency was declared in the country and an enhanced community quarantine is implemented in Luzon and for this he wants local officials to speed up the passage and implementation of an anti-discrimination ordinance to put a stop to these incidents.
“The national government expects immediate action from LGUs on the discrimination happening to front-line workers. Let us accord them the dignity and honor they deserve for their courage and service in the fight against the deadly Covid-19,” he added.
He issued the directive as the government continues to receive reports about discrimination against health workers, uniformed personnel, and those working in essential services. Reported incidents range from verbal discrimination to harmful situations like throwing of bleach and the shooting of an ambulance driver.
He lauded some LGUs that have already passed an ordinance on anti-discrimination of front-line workers amid the enhanced community quarantine like Manila and Muntinlupa City and is urging other LGUs to do the same.
Año said that local ordinances are more responsive and tailor-fit to the current situation in localities amid the Covid-19 crisis aside from the fact that Congress is not in session and it would take a while before a national law could be passed on this matter.
He emphasized the importance of not only of the passage but also the proper enforcement of ordinance prohibiting specific acts of discrimination against front-line workers and imposing penalties for violations.
“Babantayan po ng DILG ang compliance ng LGUs sa direktiba ng Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) na magpasa ng anti-discrimination executive orders o ordinances para sa front-line workers sa gitna ng (The DILG will closely watch the compliance of LGUs with the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to pass anti-discrimination executive orders or ordinances for front-line workers amid the) Covid-19 crisis,” he added.
The IATF-EID said that acts of discrimination, such as, but not limited to, coercion, libel, slander, physical injuries, and the dishonor of contractual obligations such as contracts of lease or employment shall be dealt with criminally, civilly and/or administratively.
Meanwhile, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya also prodded LGUs to include in the coverage of the anti-discrimination ordinances the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have returned in their provinces amid the global pandemic.
Aside from front-line workers, let us also protect OFWs. Let us remember their sacrifices as modern Filipino heroes who help support the country’s economy. They are working hard and yet they experience discrimination in their host countries,” Malaya said.
He said the anti-harassment and anti-discrimination ordinance should also cover Covid-19 victims as well as persons under monitoring (PUMs) and patients under investigation (PUIs).
“The law should protect them as well. They did not choose to be sick. They should also be afforded the State’s protection and care,” he said.
Malaya reiterated the pronouncement of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that they will provide assistance to those who suffer discrimination due to Covid-19.
The DOJ announced that their investigators, prosecutors, and legal officers have been directed to provide legal assistance to frontline workers by approaching the nearest office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Public Attorney’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office, DOJ action center, or directly to the Office of the Secretary.
President Rodrigo Duterte has also earlier ordered the police and military to watch out for anyone who will harass health workers.
According to the Department of Health, there are various reports regarding discrimination against front-liners who are being refused basic services like public transport, laundry service, refused entry to supermarket or grocery stores, or being evicted from their lodging or housing. (PR)