The Hataman Bill (Anti-Discrimination Bill): A Big Leap Forward Towards an Inclusive Society

By: Algamar A. Latiph
(A Speech at the YSPEAK Forum on Anti-Discrimination Bill July 7, 2009, Asian Institute of Management, Makati City )

In pursuit of affirming human dignity and equality which is the basic right of men, House Bill No. 3012 otherwise known as ACT PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS ON ACCOUNT OF ETHNIC ORIGIN AND/OR RELIGIOUS BELIEF was passed in the House of Representative and now pending before the Senate. The principal author Hon Cong. Mujiv Hataman, is a good friend, and we have to thank him for putting forward the bill and the other co-sponsors as well as the House of Representative as whole. I was fortunate also to be part of volunteer lawyers who the drafted the bill last November 2008. Now, that the bill is before the Senate we know that it is just a matter of time that this bill will become a law. The bill is inclusive of all ethnic origin. Under the bill, discrimination can be: “committed when a person treats another less favorably on the basis of ethnic origin and/or religious affiliation or belief than the person treats or would treat another without that attribute, or with a different attribute, on the same or similar circumstances in employment, education, housing and delivery of basic services.” Rather than delving on the text of the bill, I choose to discuss the reason behind the proposed law. Of course, by passing the bill we are complying with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by making act of discrimination justiciable,

meaning act of discrimination will become an actionable wrong with criminal as well as civil sanction. We live in a diverse society, a multiethnic society of more than seven thousand islands. Regrettably, however, social exclusion, intolerance and discrimination prevail in our society this is notwithstanding the Philippines’, as a member of international community, and its assertion of being an open and democratic society. People with often fundamentally different value systems and life styles live together and next to each other. It is a world of diversity that we find ourselves in and dealing with this diversity, living with differences, is a daily challenge for every one of us.1 Diversity is a reality in the Philippines and there is no normative framework that regulates that relations except the mores of the society which has now became obsolete and an obstacle in recognizing equality and human dignity. The Philippine Human Development Report 2005 shows that 55% of Filipinos think that Muslims are probably more prone to run amok. 47% believes that Muslims are probably terrorists or extremists . There are 44% percentages of those who believe that Muslims probably secretly hate all non-Muslims. There is 33% to 39% percentage of Filipinos that are biased against Muslims notwithstanding the fact that only about 14% of them have had direct dealings with Muslims. In the same report, it found that Bottom-10 provinces in human development (2003) are the four provinces of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, namely: Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, and Sulu. While all the five provinces in ARMM are at the Bottom-10 provinces in terms of life expectancy (2003): Basilan 60.6, Lanao del Sur 57.9, Sulu 52.8, Maguindanao 52.0, and Tawi-Tawi 51.2

Weidenfeld, W., Constructive Conflicts: Tolerance Learning as the Basis for Democracy, Prospects, vol. XXXII, no. 1, March 2002
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Physical and literal evidence of social exclusion with respect to Moro is very apparent. There is no such Bicolano, Cebuano, or Ilocano communities but here in Metro Manila we have more than a dozen communities densely populated by Moro such as in Quiapo, Culiat, Taguig. This holds true in other major cities in the Philippines. This manifests that Moros are having difficulty in finding acceptance with other non-moro communities not only in Metro-Manila but in other regions as well, hence they (Moros) choose to establish their own community because the society is not that inclusive. The foregoing findings validates the theory that “the process of increasing social polarization (such as the prejudice and biases in the survey cited) seems to go hand in hand with economic polarization (such as the human development index).2 This should also a concern to regional security since a research found that a “higher levels of discrimination against ethnic minorities increase the likelihood of violent state behavior when engaged in international disputes.”3 With the statistic cited, there is urgency and compelling reason in the passage of the bill. It could be a legal intervention to address the problem in building a just and humane society. To promote inclusion and lessen discrimination thereby lessening prejudice and intolerance and promote understanding. The bill will not solve all forms of discrimination but we must have at least a legal framework to bind the society in which victims of discrimination can seek justice under law rather than putting their grievance of injustice outside the purview of the law. With this assalamu alaikum warahmatullihi wabarakatuh.

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Esteban, J. and Schneider, G., Polarization and Conflict: Theoretical and Empirical Issues, Journal of Peace Research 2008; 45; 131. 3 Caprioli, M. and Rumbore, P.F., Ethnic Discrimination and Interstate Violence: Testing the International Impact of Domestic Behavior, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, no. 1, 2003, pp. 5–23.

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