By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday expressed support to the initiatives of some local government units (LGUs) to address discrimination against health workers and patients with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Whether in the form of an ordinance or an executive order, local government issuances presumably have deterrent effect on the commission of discriminatory acts in their respective jurisdiction,” Guevarra said.
At the moment, Guevarra pointed out it would take too much time for Congress to pass legislation to immediately address the discrimination that continues to take place during the state of health emergency in the country.
“Considering that Congress is not in session, and that it generally takes a substantial amount of time to enact a law of national application, it is more expedient during this period of public health emergency that Sangguniang Bayans enact their own ordinances prohibiting specific acts of discrimination against health workers and imposing penalties for violations thereof,” he explained.
Among the LGUs, the Manila local government passed Ordinance 8624, the Anti-COVID-19 Discrimination Ordinance of 2020.
The ordinance imposes a fine and jail penalty against those proven to have committed any act that causes “stigma, disgrace, shame, humiliation, and harassment” against COVID-19 patients, health workers, and other frontliners.
Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivares has also issued an executive order which prohibits any discrimination against COVID-19 patients as well as both medical and non-medical frontliners.
Guevarra assured that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide assistance to those who suffer discrimination due to COVID-19.
“On the part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), our investigators, attorneys, prosecutors, and legal officers have been directed to provide you with any legal assistance that you may need,” DOJ chief stated.
“Just approach the nearest office of the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Public Attorney’s Office, prosecutor’s office, DOJ action center, or the Office of the Secretary, and they will take it from there,” he advised.