ILOILO CITY, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III will lead the inauguration rites for the new Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) on Sept. 14, a week before ministerial meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) take place here, said Senate President Franklin Drilon.
The Iloilo part of the Apec meetings are to be held at the ICC, one of the senator’s pet project. These include the Small and Medium Enterprise ministerial meeting on Sept. 21 to 25, disaster management on Sept. 22 to 23, and on food security on Sept. 28 to Oct. 6.
The completion of the P747 million ICC has been repeatedly delayed with public bidding for site development and audio-video lighting system conducted only last Aug. 24.
A complaint of graft was also brought against Drilon and other officials for alleged overpricing and other irregularities in connection with the ICC project but the case was dismissed by the Ombudsman for lack of evidence.
Drilon assured the public that the ICC would be completed in time for the Apec meetings.
He said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), an agency under the Department of Tourism (DOT), which owns the building, has informed him that the building is “99.8 percent” complete.
An act of heroism is not measured by how grand the deed is but by how sincere a person is in helping others.
The Inquirer Read-Along session on Saturday delivered this message through real-life heroes who regaled some 85 children with inspiring stories about bravery, sincerity and heroism.
Held in time for the celebration of National Heroes Day, the session featured as readers this year’s Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos Awardees—educator Milagros C. Banan, Air Force Col. Maxima Oximoso Ignacio and Police Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan—and movie actress Bianca Umali and professional storyteller Dyali Justo.
Banan and Ignacio read together Rene Villanueva’s “Carancal: Ang Bayaning Isang Dangkal,” a story about a small boy who helped defeat a giant and free an entire town while Cascolan read Rene Villanueva’s “Patrolman Ngiyaw,” a story about a cat who is recognized for his hard work and diligence.
Umali read “Ang Alamat ng Papaya,” also written by Villanueva, a story about how the Pya-a’s courage and loyalty led to the birth of the first papaya.
Justo read “Marvino’s League of Superheroes” by Rae Rival-Cosico, a story of a young boy who drew superheroes inspired by the country’s national heroes.
“From the story, I learned that as long as you show sincerity and goodness to others, people will also be good to you,” said Umali, star of the upcoming GMA-7 soap “Maybe this Time” and a first-time Read Along reader.
Cascolan, Philippine National Police deputy regional director for operation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is one of the Metrobank Foundation’s Outstanding Police Officers 2015.
“It feels really good talking to the children. At first many of them had negative image of the police. I am glad to have a chance to show them a better image,” he said.
Ignacio, an Air Force colonel and a Metrobank Outstanding Philippine Soldiers awardee, said reading to the children made her feel like a child again. “The act of storytelling and immediately seeing that the kids felt happy and inspired by our story—that’s the best part for me,” she said.
Banan, a teacher of English and Mandarin at the Ernesto Rondon High School in Quezon City, is among the winners of Metrobank’s Search for Outstanding Teachers. Though she has been teaching for almost three decades, she “felt a bit challenged how to read to younger kids.”
According to Cascolan said that like the kids, he learned something from the story he read. “An important lesson from the story is to always be hardworking and honest in your work. A policeman should be a good example to children at all times,” he said.
“For the kids, you don’t know when you’ll get the chance to be a hero. Modern-day heroes are those who help in serving their community. We need to share even just a bit of assistance or help to our neighbors, our government. Every small act, when collected together, becomes a big thing for our countrymen,” he said.
Ignacio said that through the story that she read, “we learned that even if you are just a child, you are valuable and capable of contributing to the community”.
Banan, on the other hand, stressed the lessons from Carancal’s story. “I think it is very important that children learn that size—whether it is in the physical, mental, or economic aspect of life—doesn’t matter in becoming a hero. Even if you are small or young or not rich, you have a purpose,” she said.
Grade six students Jenna, Angela, and John from Plainview Elementary School in Mandaluyong also chose the Carancal because it demonstrated that size was not a limitation to doing good.
“Even if I am small, I can help others,” said 11-year-old Jenna.
In a country where the delivery of justice is notoriously slow, surprised lawyers are taking selfies with orders instantly issued in court.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday talked about how some lawyers pose for photos holding up orders printed out and signed by the judge within minutes of promulgation in open court, an indicator of reform slowly taking place in the Philippine justice system.
It is what the country’s chief magistrate described as “real-time justice,” the ideal kind of justice that she said she hoped would become the rule, instead of the exception, in the Philippines.
“It is as dramatic as saying justice can indeed be real-time,” Sereno told a panel of select journalists in her annual press conference.
“Just imagine the shock of lawyers receiving [copies of] orders minutes after [promulgation] in court. It is not a surprise that lawyers take selfies [with the court orders],” she said.
With such speed, lawyers can also quickly “collect their appearance fee,” Sereno said.
Goodbye, snail mail
Usually, it could take at least two months for a party to receive a copy of even the simplest court order, Sereno said, as it takes time for one to be drafted, approved then signed by the judge, and then delivered via snail mail.
Sharing another story, Sereno described an automated hearing held at Davao City Regional Trial Court, where a detainee was readily released upon the judge’s order.
“[A] longtime detainee was ordered released from detention and [freed] right there and then, the order dismissing his case being printed, signed and served in a matter of minutes,” Sereno said.
“It so shocked the family that within minutes that a judge pronounced the order, the order for release was given. The surprise was so deep that not only the accused [cried] in court [but also] his family. [T]he lawyers and the court employees [cried] as well,” she said.
For the Chief Justice, it was proof that speedy delivery of justice “can be done.”
Automation of processes
“I believe this is the kind of justice that our people deserve. I am appealing to all our [countrymen]: The fight for justice is a very long one, and it can be very detailed, it can go down to the nitty-gritty because high ideals and motherhood slogans are not enough to bring justice to our people,” she said.
Since her appointment in 2012, Sereno has been leading a reform program that involves automation of court processes, marathon trials and deployment of mobile courts to decongest the dockets, among other improvements.
“This means that during trial, every activity is captured electronically, right there and then, including orders issued by the judge, minutes of the hearing conducted, judges’ notes on testimony taken, markings of evidence, issuance of writs and other court processes,” Sereno said.
“This is done by linking together the computers of the judge, stenographer and interpreters to allow all individuals to view and edit [in real time] the documents being prepared,” she said.
Currently up to 100 courts in Quezon City, Angeles City, Tacloban City, Lapu-Lapu City and Davao City can instantly release orders.
In these courts, judges have not just their gavels on the bench, but also laptops for immediate encoding of court orders. Nearby are printers for the immediate printing of documents following proceedings, Sereno said.
The judiciary aims to introduce automated hearings, or the transformation of “the entire courtroom into an automated trial forum,” in all Metro Manila courts by 2016, she said.
“While we have only begun to scratch the surface in addressing all the concerns before us, I am heartened to hear stories from judges, lawyers and litigants [about] how our efforts have directly affected their lives,” Sereno said.
The conduct of automated hearings is an “offshoot” of the electronic court (e-court) project, a computer-based case management system under which case information is encoded upon filing, along with subsequent pleadings and court issuances (decisions and writs) throughout the proceedings.
Through e-courts, the assessment of court fees, docketing and case raffling are done electronically. The status of cases are also tracked.
As of this month, there are 82 e-courts across the country, including the courts in Quezon City, Angeles City, Lapu-Lapu City and Tacloban City, Sereno said.
Later this year, 85 more e-courts will be launched in Davao City, Cebu City and Makati City, she said.
By next year, 120 more will become operational in Manila, Pasig City and Mandaluyong City, bringing to 287 the number of trial courts implementing the system.
Sereno said this figure would account for 30 percent of the total case load of Philippine courts.
The judiciary’s Nationwide Connectivity Project, which aims to provide Internet connection to the country’s courts, is also under way.
Sereno said bidding has begun for the first phase of the project, which would cover the 10 above-mentioned cities targeted for e-court implementation by next year.
“For the first time, this would provide genuine reliable connectivity in our courts [so that there will be] no reason for any delay for any court process or reporting,” Sereno said.
The Department of Education (DepEd) announced the death of Undersecretary Francis M. Varela, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in Pililia, Rizal province, Saturday morning.
Varela, the undersecretary for finance and administration, “has been very instrumental in forging ahead education reforms particularly in ensuring that every cent in the education budget is spent judiciously,” DepEd said in a statement.
“He was a staunch advocate of anticorruption efforts in the department and played a very important role in instituting reforms to ensure that ethical standards are observed in all transactions involving the agency,” it said. “A highly principled man, a sharp mind, a willingness to make tough decisions and the compassion for the Filipino learner were all hallmarks of Usec Varela’s five years in DepEd.”
“We are one with his family in this difficult time and one with the nation in mourning the loss of an extraordinary public servant.”
The wake will be at La Salle Green Hills, according to Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo.
Few politicians have been critical of the INC, and some of the potential candidates for President and Vice President in next year’s elections are among those defending the group’s mass action.
A former lawmaker, however, said politicians placating the INC should be condemned.
Former Akabyan Rep. Walden Bello said the INC’s “disruption” of Metro Manila was unacceptable.
“Politicians conciliating these fanatics must be condemned,” Bello said in a text message.
Bello said that while he has had differences with De Lima on certain issues, the justice secretary is right in extending protection and judicial remedy to INC members who feel threatened by the INC hierarchy.
“If a Roman Catholic priest is accused of sexual exploitation of minors, he would be subject to secular prosecution by the state and would never be allowed to invoke the separation of church and state principle to protect him from prosecution,” he said.
Interviewed in Nueva Ecija on Friday, Sen. Grace Poe, a potential presidential candidate, said people should not belittle the importance of religion.
“For me, those people are defending their faith. We respect that and they also have to protect their rights,” Poe told reporters.
She also said it would be good if De Lima would face the protesters and explain the situation.
“After all, those of us in [the] government have the responsibility to explain well to the people the reason for the steps we have taken,” she said.
Asked if she believed the DOJ should handle the case, she said the agency already had a lot on its plate.
She cited the Mamasapano clash, noting that while the incident had been investigated, nobody had been placed on the witness protection program.
Another aspirant for higher office, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also came to the defense of the INC.
“The INC certainly has the right to stage a peaceful mass action to express their sentiments in defense of their faith,” Marcos said in a statement.
According to Marcos, the DOJ’s handling of the case “leaves much to be desired.”
He claimed that De Lima discussed the merits of the case, which he said created the impression of undue interest in the case, whether rightly or wrongly.
“For justice to triumph, the DOJ must not only be impartial in its procedure and ruling; like Caesar’s wife, it must also be seen as being fair to all,” he added.
Sen. Francis Escudero, Poe’s potential running mate, said in a statement issued on Thursday that the DOJ should not let the INC issue elbow out other cases that matter to the people.
Escudero said the DOJ’s INC investigation might be misinterpreted as an interference and infringement of the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
De Lima should uphold the principle of the separation of church and state, he said.
“It may be a prudent to first let the leadership of the INC resolve what appears to be a purely internal matter. We do not want to see division and misunderstanding during these times,” Escudero said.
The DOJ should instead make the Mamasapano case a priority, Escudero said. It should release its full findings so that those responsible for the deaths of 44 police commandos could be brought to justice, he added. Leila B. Salaverria
Leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) are manufacturing a “revolution” and politicians are pandering to their whims unaware that the prized bloc vote of the group may be gone, the lawyer of an expelled INC minister who brought the criminal complaint that sparked the standoff between the government and the homegrown Christian sect said on Saturday.
Trixie Cruz-Angeles, the lawyer of expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr., said the Iglesia mass action on Edsa began as “a crisis within the church,” but it seemed that there were “political opportunists who would like to cast this as something else.”
“If the Sanggunian (the INC governing council) wants to use [the] government to ratify their patently illegal acts, given the elections, doubtless they will find officials willing to go so far for them. As in fact, there already are,” Angeles said.
Television reports late Friday said Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, President Aquino’s aunt who lost a run for the Senate as an opposition candidate in 2013, and Council of Philippine Affairs (Copa) head Pastor Saycon were seen at the INC rally in front of the Edsa Shrine.
Members of the INC are known to follow directives from the sect’s leadership under the threat of expulsion, enabling the group to deliver votes to politicians endorsed by its leaders.
INC followers began to mass up in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) building on Padre Faura Street in Manila on Thursday, accusing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of bias for accepting for investigation Samson’s complaint of illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion against members of the sect’s governing council.
The former editor in chief of the INC’s official publication, Pasugo (God’s Message), filed the criminal charges after the council allegedly placed him and his family under “house arrest” in July, suspecting him of being behind accusations of corruption and wrongdoing against the sect’s leadership published online.
Samson denied the allegations.
The crisis within the sect became known in July when the mother and younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo posted on Facebook an appeal for help from other Iglesia followers, claiming their lives were in danger.
Cristina Manalo, widow of the late INC leader Eraño Manalo, and Angel Manalo were expelled for trying to cause division within the church, according to spokesperson for the group.
Concerned for the safety of the two Manalos, disgruntled sect members disclosed bad business decisions and financial excesses involving members of the governing council, leading to a scandal that suggested the secretive INC may not be rock-solid after all.
Those who stayed with the leadership showed their obedience by massing in front of the DOJ building on Thursday then, following fresh orders, moved to Edsa during rush hour on Friday night, occupying a site from where popular revolts toppled from power strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. Estrada is now mayor of Manila.
Angeles said the protest was the INC governing council’s way of protecting its members.
In an earlier interview, Angeles said those behind Samson’s abduction were “running scared,” aware that they faced “serious jail time.”
“[All that Mr. Samson] is doing is [trying to save] the church from its wayward leaders. These leaders, on the other hand, need some outside help and the only way to do that is to cast this as something revolutionary,” Angeles said on Saturday.
Asked about politicians who are riding on the INC mass action, Angeles said they could be banking on the Iglesia bloc vote, which may no longer exist given the crisis within the sect.
“They don’t realize that the church is divided now. The much vaunted bloc vote may not materialize anymore,” Angeles said.
“If this (situation) continues, we may be looking at the end of the [political] influence the [INC]. Its leaders have cooked their own goose. Ironic that their greed has led to this,” she said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is trending like a pop star on cyberspace.
It’s De Lima by a landslide for the past 72 hours with the hashtag #DeLimaBringtheTruth, leaving the hashtags #IglesianiCristo and #EDSA on the wayside.
As of Saturday night, the hashtag #DeLimaBringtheTruth, which was pushed by netizens who want the justice secretary to stay put at her post, had 138,000 tweets.
The hashtag #Edsa has 54,600 tweets and #IglesianiCristo, 19,600.
On Thursday, members of the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) camped outside De Lima’s office on Padre Faura Street in Manila, demanding her resignation for meddling in the INC affairs. It was De Lima’s birthday.
According to the INC members, De Lima violated the principle of separation of church and state when she acted on the complaint of Isaias Samson Jr., one of its ministers, who filed a serious illegal detention complaint against the eight members of the church’s Sanggunian in the Department of Justice (DOJ). They maintained that the complaint should have been left to the INC leadership to resolve.
“Would you believe that some people actually ask De Lima to resign just because she’s doing her job? Nakakaloka kayo (You drive us crazy). #DeLimaBringTheTruth,” netizen @dannalovescats said.
“Their actions speak how guilty they are. Kaya dapat (That’s why) #DeLimaBringTheTruth. We support you for justice & truth,” said netizen @cynchbrul.
“Hindi ang INC ang pinakekealaman ni de lima ung kaso na isinampa (De Lima did not interfere into the internal affairs of the INC but the case that has been filed in her office) …#DeLimaBringtheTruth,” netizen @thinaMaso said.
“The nerve to ask for separation of church and state, eh, it’s common practice naman for ’em,” said @karlsosaurus_rex.
“Faith vs blind obedience. Wake up, people. Wake up. #ISupportSecDelima #DeLimaBringTheTruth,” netizen @imnotbeybi said.
“What do you want DOJ to do exactly? To deny the person due process for his case just because of separation of church and state?” @mskyruh posted on Twitter.
The INC gathering on Padre Faura practically clogged the traffic flow, pushing affected pedestrians to vent their ire on social media.
“#DearINC umuwi na lang po kayo sa mga bahay nyo. Di nyo ba napapansin inuuto lang kayo ng mga ministro niyo? (Go back to your homes. Haven’t you noticed your ministers are just making a fool of you)? #DeLimaBringTheTruth,” said netizen Reymar Origenes.
On Friday, the INC members who were on Padre Faura moved to Edsa in Quezon City, occupying portions of the stretch from Ortigas to Shaw.
The massive traffic jam on Edsa fueled netizens’ displeasure all the more.
“Edsa kagabi (last night). I’m on the highway to hell,” said netizen Marki.
“#DearINC Sana sa Arena nyo yan ginawa, dba kayo may ari ng arena (You should have staged your rally at the Arena. Don’t you own the Arena?)” said krystinrae.
“#DearINC you are all strong kamusta nmn yung naipit sa EDSA nagutom at pagod lupaylapay di kau affected eh pano n naipit s trapik ok lng (How were those who were stuck in Edsa, those who went hungry and weary? You were not affected because you were not stuck in traffic),” complained netizen mhark daro.
For Zildjan Navarro, the INC should have been aware of the daily travails of the commuting public. “#IglesiaNiCristo I really admire your unity guys. But please, what you’re doing now is really burdensome,” he said.
“Don’t be blown away by mass gatherings. For all you know, those people do not fully understand why they rally? #DeLimaBringTheTruth,” said netizen AlsieTheo.
Netizen Eric James thought that the public should just be mum on the issue. “People should strengthen their faith instead of giving unintelligent and useless accusation to #IglesiaNiCristo. Does it profit you? Nope,” he said.
“Go to Philippine Arena, lalo na kung separation of Church and State ang sigaw nyo (especially if your cry is separation of church and state). Don’t use the State’s major thoroughfare,” said @LawSandel.
Despite these reactions, Filipino humor still found its way into the exchange.
“In protest to the rally that’s been happening in edsa; iwill eat DINUGUAN! #WITHPUTO #DEARINC,” said fitz.
For @ranelnino, the issue deserves a moment of clarity. “Ano bang ipinaglalaban ng mga taga-#IglesiaNiCristo? Please enlighten me bago ako gumawa ng stance. HAHAHAHA (What is the Iglesia ni Cristo fighting for? Please enlighten me before I make a stand),” he said.
Netizen @JLindleyAgustin appealed for calm and sobriety. “Hi! Let us all remember that ur anti-INC remarks can lead to religious hatred which is also a crime. Bring it to balance! #IglesiaNiCristo,” he said.
“If pursued, DeLima handling of INC case can help settle or clarify many legal questions on the sect’s political activism. #iglesianicristo,” said @FDPascual. Fe Zamora and Ramon Royandoyan, Inquirer Social Media
President Benigno Aquino III has directed government officials not to allow certain people to use the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) protest on Edsa for their own political interests, Malacañang said Saturday.
“The President mentioned specifically that [the] government should ensure—at least, the executive branch— that there are no opportunities for those who may want to take advantage of the situation for their personal end,” Valte said over Radyo ng Bayan.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Saturday confirmed he had received reports that vested interests were trying to inflame the INC protesters massed on Edsa.
Roxas declined further comment, referring the Inquirer to the Philippine National Police.
Chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief, said people who were not Iglesia were seen at the rally of the politically influential INC on Edsa on Friday night.
Pagdilao, however, played down reports that those people tried to stir passions at the INC rally against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s alleged handling of a criminal complaint against members of the sect’s governing council.
Former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, his wife, Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, and Council of Philippine Affairs (Copa) head Pastor Saycon were seen at the rally late on Friday. The Cojuangcos and Saycon were also at the rally on Saturday.
The Cojuangcos and Saycon are known supporters of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the opposition’s presidential candidate in next year’s national elections.
The INC protest against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s handling of a criminal complaint filed by an expelled INC minister against members of the sect’s governing council went into a third day on Saturday after the group obtained a rally permit from the Mandaluyong City government.
Pagdilao estimated the crowd at the intersection of Edsa and Shaw Boulevard at 2,000.
But INC leaders claimed 8,000 came to the rally on Saturday, including students from the INC College of Evangelical Ministry in Quezon City.
One million expected
They said they expected participation in the protest to hit 1 million people, with more INC members coming to Manila from the Bicol region, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Zambales, Batangas and Pangasinan provinces.
There were no reports of untoward incidents on Saturday.
Traffic on Edsa was easier on Saturday with the underpass at the intersection unblocked by protesters.
The protesters withdrew from the Edsa Shrine on Ortigas Avenue and concentrated their forces at the Edsa-Shaw Crossing.
They became more organized than on Friday night, erecting a stage and setting up a sound system, with large streamers bearing their slogans as backdrop.
The protesters also installed first-aid tents and portable toilets.
A police desk was also set up on Shaw, with the stage within sight of the police.
Valte said President Aquino directed Roxas to meet with officials of Quezon City and Mandaluyong City—both are affected by the INC rally—and police officials to find a “way forward.”
She said the meeting was finished Friday and an action plan was expected.
Mr. Aquino also gave instructions to ensure public safety, especially of people not involved in the INC protest, Valte said.
“The President’s instructions were to ensure the safety of the public, including … not just those who are involved in the protest but more importantly, those who are uninvolved in the protest—meaning the greater population who pass through that entire thoroughfare,” she said.
She said the President’s view was that freedom, including freedom of expression, was accompanied by responsibility.
The President was reminding people exercising their rights to respect also the rights of others, including those looking forward to a long, quiet, and peaceful payday weekend, Valte said.
De Lima defended
Valte also defended De Lima, saying the justice secretary just accepted the complaint filed by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr.
De Lima has not yet acted on the complaint, which makes the Palace wonder what the INC is complaining about, Valte said.
“The DOJ (Department of Justice) has yet to take action on this … No step has been taken. So we do not know what is being said as, or is being construed as, harassment,” she said.
The DOJ follows a process in the filing of complaints regardless of who files a complaint, Valte said. That process will be followed in handling the complaint of Samson, she said.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano confirmed on Saturday night that the complaint had yet to be forwarded to an investigating state prosecutor.
“[The] case has not been assigned to a prosecutor yet,” Arellano said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Valte said De Lima was not cowed by the INC mass action. The justice chief is someone who “has established herself as one who does her job,” she said.
QUEZON City, which years ago earned the tag of being the “carnapping capital” of the country, appears to be topping another unsavory list.
Figures released by the Philippine National Police on Saturday showed that the city recorded the highest number of motorcycle thefts this week compared to other localities in Metro Manila.
Of the 39 cases of motorcycle theft incidents tallied in that period, the Quezon City Police District recorded 15 cases in its jurisdiction, followed by the Manila Police District’s 12 incidents.
The Southern Police District tallied six stolen motorcycles, while the Northern and Eastern Police District had the lowest with only three apiece.
The PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management said this month saw an average of 39 bike thefts a week in the capital.
The number represents a significant drop from the weekly average of 63 incidents tallied in June 2014, it said.
The PNP advised the public to always park motorcycles in safe, secure and well-lit areas, install alarms or security devices on the bikes, use tire-locks and keep motorcycle keys stowed away when not in use.
In June, the Southern Police District (SPD) opened a Facebook account for the SPD-Dancar (District Anti-Carnapping Group) containing photos of motorcycles recovered from robbers and other criminal groups, for the vehicles to be reclaimed by their owners.
The site also posts the corresponding model, license plate and other descriptions of the recovered bikes. Jaymee T. Gamil
JOB VACANCY advertisements that require applicants to be “single,” “fair skinned” and “with a pleasing personality” are now a no-no—at least in San Juan City.
The local government is also penalizing schools that reject enrollees just because they can’t present their baptismal certificate or their parents’ marriage contract.
Unanimously passed by the city council, “The Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of San Juan City” was signed last week by Mayor Guia Gomez. It aims “to promote equality and actively eliminate all forms of discrimination that violate the equal protection of human rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and other existing laws, as well as international conventions.”
The measure served notice to business establishments or educational institutions that would discriminate against any person based on his or her sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, religion, health status, age and physical attributes.
The author, Councilor Angelo Agcaoili, said it should address complaints against long-held biases especially in the workplace, which start in the selection of employees when companies specify certain physical traits as a must for applicants.
Agcaoili cited job postings that require recruits to be good looking and having a fair complexion and a pleasing personality. “[Those requirements] are discriminatory. Does it mean that when you’re not good looking, you can’t work efficiently?” he said in an interview.
The company’s right to identify the qualities an applicant must possess is still recognized, “but these must be directly connected” to the job being offered, he said. The company should “prove that the qualifications are directly related or relevant to the nature of its operations.”
The ordinance also prohibits the inclusion of age, health status, sexual orientation and gender identity in the criteria for hiring, promoting and dismissing an employee, as well as in determining his or her compensation.
As to the provisions on schools and universities, Agcaoili recalled how a parent reported to him two years ago that her child wasn’t able to enroll in a private school because she couldn’t present a copy of her marriage contract.
“Does it mean that when you’re a non-Catholic, you don’t have the right to enroll in the school of your choice? Does it also mean that when a child’s parents are not married, he is not welcome to the school? I don’t think it’s the child’s fault if he’s illegitimate or his parents aren’t married,” said the councilor, who is also a lawyer.
Violators of the ordinance will be issued a warning for the first offense. A second offense carries a fine of P3,000; and a third, P5,000. Concerned company or school officials also face jail time of 10 to 20 days.
The city government is also obliged to provide legal representation for complainants, from the documentation of the case, its filing, and up to the ensuing hearings.