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On Senate Bills 2001 and 2888: An Act Prohibiting Discrimination Against Persons on Account of Ethnic Origin and/or Religious Belief

Sentro ng Altenatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN)
On Senate Bills 2001 and 2888: An Act Prohibiting Discrimination Against Persons on Account of Ethnic Origin and/or Religious Belief


The Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN), an alternative law group registered as a non-stock, non-profit organization, supports the proposed “Anti-Discrimination Act [of 2008]”, or House Bill. No. 3012, as approved on 3rd Reading by the House of Representatives, and urgently asks the Honorable Senate to approve the counterpart versions, Senate Bills 2001 and 2888. This position is based on the following grounds:

1. Necessity: There is real acts of discrimination based on ethnicity and religion

Historical injustices against the Moros and indigenous peoples have placed them in the bottom tier of the society. Conflict and displacement have excluded them from the benefits of whatever development the Philippines have been able to reap. Without much working for them, Moros and indigenous peoples 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. Some of the victims have in fact shared their stories during the public hearings on HB 3012. One of the resource persons was Dr. jamail A. Kamlian, Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, who was turned down when he tried to buy a lot in Frontiera Subdivision in Cagayan de Oro City when the sellers found out that he was a Muslim.

Biases against the Moro peoples have been the subject of the Pulse Asia study that was incorporated into the Philippine Human Development Report of 2005. The study was done by asking 1,200 Filipino adults 16 questions in face-to-face interviews. Some of the findings in said surveys are as follows:

• 55% of Filipinos think that Muslims are probably more prone to run amok, and
• 47% believe that Muslims are probably terrorists of extremists, even if
• only about 14% could cite their own experience with Muslims

These biases against Muslims translate into acts of discrimination that have “real” impact on Muslims’ right to work/ livelihood and accommodation, to wit:

• Asked to choose between persons with the same qualifications, but with one having a Christian name and the other having a Muslim-sounding name:

- Those with Christian-sounding names will be chosen as male boarder (42%), female domestic helper (40%), and male worker (46%)

- Those with Muslim-sounding names will be accepted by the respondents as male boarder (3%), female domestic helper (7%), and male worker (4%)

• Looking at the pattern according to Island groups, a higher percentage of Mindanaoans opted for the male boarder (54%) or male worker (57%) with Christian-sounding names compared to the other areas. The percentage of those preferring Christian-sounding names to be hired as female domestic helpers (49%) is the same as those from the other geographic areas.


These survey results show that there are biases against Muslims, and that these biases are considered in decisions that affect the Muslims’ likelihood to be rejected as a worker/ helper or a boarder. Statistics of actual cases of discrimination may not be available at this time, precisely because there is no law that penalizes acts of discrimination. Victims do not have any reason to report, and there are no mechanisms for reporting.

Taking these prejudices and accounts of actual discrimination, it now becomes imperative to enact a law that is designed to address this skewed order of things, towards a system where no one is excluded from the opportunities that civilized society has to offer. Peaceful co-existence among different peoples requires justice and equality.

2. For government’s compliance with human rights standards, as enunciated international covenants and domestic laws


A law against discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and/or religious belief is necessary in ensuring that institutions and individuals are reminded of non-discrimination as a norm that each and everyone must adhere to, under pain of prosecution, as well as civil and administrative actions.

While prejudices and biases on the basis of ethnicity and religious affinity may not be easily and immediately eradicated, especially after the Islamophobia of “9/11”, the Philippines, as a state-party to various international instruments, should mobilize resources in order to curb the acts of discrimination and the effects thereof. As signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and as a member of the United Nations General Assembly which has passed two resolutions on discrimination based on religion (i.e., the 1981 Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief, and the 1993 UN GA Resolution on Elimination Of All Forms Of Religious Intolerance), the Philippines cannot but 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.” The 1993 Resolution likewise “urges States to ensure that their constitutional and legal systems provide full guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, including the provision of effective remedies where there is intolerance or discrimination based on religion or belief”


In September 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which also provides for non-discrimination of indigenous communities.

Domestically, the rights of peoples to freedom of religion, as well as those of indigenous peoples are likewise enshrined under the Philippine Constitution. With the proposed law, the rights recognized under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act 8371 will be strengthened as additional criminal and administrative remedies are put in place to ensure that indigenous peoples have equal rights to education, employment, accommodation, access to goods and services, and the like.

As to certain provisions of the proposed law, SALIGAN also puts forward the following positions in relation to the discussions made during the January 21, 2010 public hearing held by the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities

1. Use of the term “Moro”:

The term is widely accepted among the members of the 13 major entho-linguistic groups that have been largely “Islamized” before the coming of the Spaniards, and who, up to this day, have preserved their indigenous ways of life. This term, although derogatory in origin, having been used by the Spanish colonizers, was eventually adopted by these peoples as a source of pride, signifying that they are “unconquered” peoples. In fact, it has been used by the Moro liberation fronts, and has also been recognized by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines when it designated the “Moro Province” and, in more contemporary times, when it entered into peace agreements with the Moro fronts.

“Moro” is used in reference to the ethnic origin of the peoples, i.e., their being members of the 13 ethno-linguistic groups. These groups combined have been collectively referred to as the “Moros”, initially by the Spaniards, and later, by the Moros themselves through self-ascription. Since the waging of the contemporary struggle of these peoples, the term “Moro” has also taken on a more political facet.

“Muslim” is also used in the bill. It refers to people who adhere to the Islamic faith, whether they are from the 13 indigenous ethno-linguistic groups, or have been converted to the faith. “Muslim” is more of a religious term, referring to the followers of Islam. Hence, there are Tagalog Muslims, Cebuano Muslims, Arab Muslims. Because of their faith, they also experience religion-based discrimination and should be given protection under the law. The proposed law addresses discrimination that may be based on ethnicity (e.g., Moros) and/or religion (e.g., Muslims).

2. “Chinese” and other nationalities

When Chinese and other nationalities and ethnicities are discriminated against, they should also be able to seek protection from the proposed law.  However, they, as well as Filipinos-- and even Moros and Muslims-- can likewise be punished under the law when they are guilty of discrimination, as defined therein.

With the arguments and clarifications, SALIGAN now implores the Honorable Chamber, through the Honorable Senate Committee, to push for the enactment of an anti-discrimination law, and adhere to international, constitutional and legal standards that the Philippines has bound herself to.


Contact Person:
Mindanao Coordinator, SALIGAN
Core Group Member, Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network (BLN)
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Telefax: 082-2984161