International Alert calls on congress to pass measure against discrimination

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 June) – Human rights advocacy group International Alert-Philippines is calling on Congress to pass an anti-discrimination measure that seeks to protect rights of the Muslim and indigenous people (IP) minorities in the workplace and enable them to access better opportunities in companies.

Francesca Humi, the group’s program officer in the country, told “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape” that the passage of an anti-discrimination measure would encourage actions against discrimination of vulnerable groups.

The International Alert is part of the technical working group formed under the Human Rights Committee, chaired by Zambales Representative Cheryl P. Deloso-Montalla that is crafting a draft law against discrimination.

She said the committee tries to consolidate the different versions of the bill into one harmonized draft.

The Congress went into adjournment sine die last June 2 and will resume session on July 24, with President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivering his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Humi said that the bill will define what acts would constitute as discrimination.

“It (bill) would provide a guide and it will also provide a legal backbone, which means that if you have a complaint, if something happens to you, you will actually take legal action and it’s a way of empowering people who experience discrimination and it will help build a more a peaceful Filipino society,” she said.

Humi said the bill will urge the local government units to pass their local legislations that seek to punish discriminatory acts as well as encourage “companies and other members of the society to not discriminate” employees belonging to some ethnic minorities.

She said equal rights must be given to employees of certain ethnic and religious backgrounds in terms of accessing opportunities and professional advancement in their workplace.

She said there are some companies in the country that employ discriminatory “hiring practices, hostile criteria” for selection of workers, most especially for Muslim women.

Humi said discrimination is evident even within the workplace, from minor forms that are not necessarily seen as discriminatory acts to “large scale, more institutional issues of discrimination.”

Partnership with MBC

Humi said it is partnering with the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) to eliminate the discriminatory practices of companies against the Moro and IP.

She said they will launch on Thursday the “Red Flags: Principles on Diversity and Equality in the Workplace” that lists warnings to make companies aware of existing practices that discriminate against job applicants or employees of certain religious or ethnic backgrounds and how they can correct it.

Humi said the MBC conducted a series of focused group discussions with different businesses across Mindanao to “really talk to them and get a sense of what discrimination is like really in the work place, and whether or not they even think they are discriminating.”

She said they hope to educate companies to make them more responsive to issues concerning discrimination in offices.

The guidelines will encourage business firms to foster inclusive workplaces and serve as a warning of how poor labor relations and a negative reputation will ultimately pull down their operations.

The group and MBC’s initiative is aimed to open safe workplaces for Moros and IPs who face limited employment opportunities.

“This makes them more responsive,” she said.

MBC chair Vicente T. Lao said the partnership will ensure equality, especially for women in the workplace, given them equal access to opportunities without discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

Humi said once employers ensure equal opportunities for workers, it will foster better relationship between companies and their employees.

“If your labor relations are sustainable, if your employees feel they have been heard, then you will have the best relationship in the community that you are operating in. The community, in turn, will have inadversarial relationship with the business itself,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)