Probe use of discriminatory language in describing suspects

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) — The Department of Justice has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the use of discriminatory language on an artist’s sketch of a suspect in the Sept. 18 bombing of a bus in Zamboanga City, by the NBI in Western Mindanao.

On orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, DOJ Undersecretary Zabedin Azis directed NBI Director Virgilio Mendez to investigate the use of discriminatory language in the description of a suspect in an artist’s sketch released by NBI Western Mindanao in connection with the Sept. 18bombing of a bus in Zamboanga City that left one person dead and 32 others injured, a Sept. 23 press release from the DOJ said.

26muslimtype11NBI Western Mindanao director Fernando Lavin on September 21 apologized to Muslim religious leaders who trooped to the City Hall in Zamboanga City.

Lavin told leaders of the Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula in the conference room of City Hall that he takes full responsibility for what happened and that he intends to raise the matter during conferences by the NBI to aid authorities in future investigations.

De Lima said the DOJ “does not allow or tolerate discrimination against any group or sector of society, including Muslim Filipinos,” adding that profiling would “violate not only the equal protection clause of our Constitution but also our commitments under international law.”

She stressed that the Philippines is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires that countries respect human rights without distinction of any kind. The Covenant also prohibits discrimination on such grounds as race, religion, political opinion or national origin.

Azis was quoted as saying that non-discrimination requires mutual respect and that the government will protect and respect every Filipino regardless of race, color or religion.

“As a country with a history of rich diversity, we are determined to avoid negative stereotypes and misinformation about beliefs, cultures and communities,” he said.

The use of “Muslim type” triggered a wave of protests aired through social media. Muslims and those from other faiths, posted selfies with the message “I am ‘Muslim type’ and I am not a bomber” in protest of the discriminatory language of the NBI regional office.

Several anti-discrimination bills have been proposed but have yet to be passed. At the Senate, SB 2122 or the “Anti-Discrimation Act” of 2014, initiated by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, seeks to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, political inclination, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, HIV status and other medical condition and providing penalties therefor.”

The bill is pending at the Cultural Communities Committee.

Another bill, introduced by Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero in July 2013, is SB 1081 or an Act Prohibiting Stereotyping Based on Religious or Ethnic Origin.” The bill is still pending.

In the House of Representatives, several bills have also been filed against discrimination. (MindaNews)