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Racial Discrimination in the Philippines

Filipinos have experienced racial discrimination against foreigners, such as our

colonizers who referred to Filipinos as indios or negritos, or some other derogatory
term. The Filipinos have also been considered as uncivilized, half-savage and
uneducated race. While we have experienced such discriminatory acts against us,
discrimination of Filipinos against Filipinos have not been a highlighted issue in the
country, until recently.
In its 20th Periodic Report to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD) in 2008, has made an official stand that, "Racial
discrimination has never officially or factually existed in the Philippines, neither in a
systemic nor formal nor intermittent nor isolated manner" because "Filipinos have
essentially the same racial and ethnic origins."
In response, a broad alliance of Indigenous Peoples organizations and support
groups submitted a consolidated "Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines ICERD
Shadow Report" to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination in 2009. It cited incidences of militarization, enforced
disappearances, harassment, and extra-judicial killings, which has led to
discrimination against the right to security of persons, right against illegal searches
and seizures, right to protection by the State and right against torture and cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment.
As what the CERD report stated, "Racial discrimination is alien to the prevailing
mores and culture of the Filipino People". In a racial discourse, the issue would
immediately be repudiated by a sensitive nationalist notion that, in the end, we
are all Filipinos. However, as the current news on lumad killings, as well as debates
around the Bangsamoro Basic Law show, the treatment of minority groups tends to
reflect the countrys poor status when it comes to treatment of race and even
Racial and Ethnic Inequality in the Philippines
Conflict and displacement have excluded minorities, either of religious, ethnolinguistic or even socio-economic class from the benefits of whatever development
the Philippines have been able to reap. These minorities are faced with the
additional burden of fighting off biases that obstruct their way towards having a
good education, better employment, and access to goods and services.
To be able to have a better understanding of the varying issues on racial
discrimination, the following words must be defined:

Race - A socially constructed category of people who share biologically

transmitted traits that a society defines as important.

Ethnicity - A shared cultural heritage, which typically involves common

ancestors, language and religion.
Minorities - Any category of people, identified to be physical or cultural traits,
that a society subjects to disadvantages. Can either be racial or ethnic.
Lesser number of population in a certain place
Prejudice - Consists of rigid prejudgments about some category of people.
Unfounded generalization about an entire category of people.

Types of Prejudice:

Stereotype - An exaggerated description applied to every person in some

Racism - The assertion that people of one race are less worthy than or
even biologically inferior to others.
Institutional Racism - Occurs in workplace in the operation of social
institutions, including economy, schools, hospitals, the military and the
criminal justice system.

Laws on Racial Discrimination

The government's stand on the non-existence of racial or ethnic discrimination
clearly underscores the reality in society - that discrimination is not acknowledged,
is not even given a face, despite the glaring fact that it exists in many places in our
country and it actually occurs on a regular basis. Taking these prejudices and
accounts of actual discrimination, it is imperative to adhere to international
standards and locally enact laws designed to establish a system where no one is
excluded from the opportunities that civilized society has to offer.
The Philippines, as a state-party to various international instruments, should
mobilize resources in order to curb the acts of discrimination. As signatory to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and as
a member of the United Nations General Assembly which has passed two
resolutions on discrimination based on religion, the Philippines should undertake
measures to ensure that rights and freedoms are enjoyed by all, without distinction
as to religion or ethnic origin, among others.
Article 7 of the 1981 Declaration provides that the rights and freedoms set forth in
the present Declaration shall be accorded in national legislation in such a manner
that everyone shall be able to avail himself of such rights and freedoms in practice.
Article 2 of the ICCPR also states that Each State Party to the present Covenant
undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject
to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction
of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Article 5 of the ICERD
obliges State parties to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its

forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour,
or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.
In 1992, the General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons
Belonging to National or Ethnic and Linguistic Minorities, while in September 2007,
the UN General Assembly also adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, which also provides for non-discrimination of indigenous communities.
Laws against discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and/or religious belief is
necessary in ensuring that institutions and individuals are reminded of nondiscrimination as a norm that everyone must adhere to, under pain of prosecution,
as well as civil and administrative actions.
Domestically, the rights of peoples to freedom of religion, as well as those of
indigenous peoples are likewise enshrined under the Philippine Constitution. The
Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act 8371 has been enacted to
ensure that indigenous peoples have equal rights to education, employment,
accommodation, access to goods and services, and the like. Other bills are being
proposed to strengthen already existing laws related to protection against
One of the proposed bill is the Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act
of 2011. This proposed legislation seeks to promote a society that values the dignity
of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights, regardless of
race, religion or ethnicity. It seeks to fulfill our international commitment under the
ICERD, to ensure its full application in our national legal system through the creation
of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law with substantial penal provisions.
Philippine Jurisprudence on Racial Discrimination
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING, et. al [G.R. No. 128845. June 1, 2000]
Public policy abhors discrimination. The Article on Social Justice and Human Rights
exhorts Congress to "give highest priority to the enactment of measures that
protect and enhance the right of all people to human dignity
The Constitution directs the State to promote "equality of employment opportunities
for all." Similarly, the Labor Code provides that the State shall "ensure equal work
opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed." It would be an affront to both the
spirit and letter of these provisions if the State, in spite of its primordial obligation to
promote and ensure equal employment opportunities, closes its eyes to unequal
and discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.
Current Issues on Racial Discrimination

On September 1, 2015, lumad tribal leaders and members of killings in Lianga,

Surigao del Sur, sparked outrage and caused the country to take notice of the
issues the indigenous community were facing. The lumads and their supporters are
calling for an end to lumad killings, allegedly perpetrated by the military and
paramilitary groups. The mineral-rich ancestral domains of the lumads are being
encroached upon by mining companies. Mindanao is not only a food basket, but
also holds the countrys biggest deposit of gold, nickel, and copper found in select
areas such as Davao, Agusan del Sur and especially Surigao. Some rights groups
claimed that mining companies are employing some military personnel for

After a bombing incident in Zamboanga, certain police sketch from the National
Bureau of Investigation (NBI) made its rounds online, causing outrage in a number
of local circles. It was of a bombing suspect, a man in a hoodie described as a
"Muslim type". The NBI's description sparked an online movement in the Muslim
5% or 4.93 million of the Population of the Philippines are Muslims. According to a
survey conducted, 60% of the Muslim population said they are being discriminated
by other Filipinos according to their appearance and religious affair; 20% said they
were bullied in class and 30% said they werent accepted to jobs because of their
religious belief. (Source: Ateneo De Manila University, Current Issues in Filipino
Is the Philippines a Racist Country?
The survey asked respondents what types of people they would refuse to live next
to, and counted how many chose the option people of a different race as a
percentage for each country. Up to an astonishing 39.9% of Filipinos would refuse to
live next to people of different race according to the study. (Source: World Values
Survey 2014)
The use of racially tinged categories is a common practice among upper and middle
class Filipinos when it comes to dealing with the lower classes. Thus are the poor
often segregated, treated as if they were a different species. Associated with
ignorance and criminality, the poor pose a permanent existential threat to the
middle class and the rich. The physical and cultural markers of class segregation
high walls, air conditioned cars, linguistic honorifics regulate the proximity of the
poor and neutralize the dangers coming from this putatively inferior race.
Such vilified representation of class is the engraved in our culture, such as with the
obsession of having lighter skin color. Light still represents upper status, that one

trait most Filipinos aspire to possess. Lighter skin retains a certain socio-cultural
relevance, whereas having darker skin color brings only ridicule or, at best,
indifference. An example of this is the remarks made against the Binays, regarding
their dark skin complexion. An article expounds that they are seen as indio usurpers
daring to claim for themselves mestizo social privileges. Words such as nognog and
other derogatory terms are common in the Philippines. But what is surprising is that
Filipinos do not recognize that such sentiments are anti-Filipino. It seems that we
are a nation desensitized to the issue on racial discrimination that discrimination
persists against Filipinos by Filipinos.