by Janica Anne L. dela Pena

The 18th Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan passed an Ordinance penalizing those who would discriminate against persons found positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), persons under monitoring or investigation, and front liners fighting the disease.

The said Ordinance was approved during the 42nd Regular Session of the 18th Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan held on April 30, 2020, at the SP Session Hall. It was sponsored by Engr. Jose Miguel M. Miraflores and co-sponsored by all the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen cases of public stigmatization among persons who have contracted the disease including PUIs and PUMs, and the rise of harmful stereotypes. Our front liners are also faced with unjust discrimination brought on by fear and panic by the public,” Engr. Miraflores said.

The ordinance prohibits any act that causes stigma, disgrace, shame, humiliation, harassment, or discrimination against COVID-19 positive patients, persons under investigation (PUI), and persons under monitoring (PUM), health workers and front liners.

Those caught violating the act would be fined P5,000 or face imprisonment of up to six months or both at the discretion of the court.

The Ordinance aims to prevent discrimination against health workers and front liners, and patients.

Various reports of discrimination have been reported against front liners being barred entry to stores, or being evicted from their lodging houses.

There have also been cases of false and inaccurate social media posts where netizens mention names of people alleged to have been infected with COVID-19.

It can also be recalled that the Department of Health has urged local government units (LGUs) to implement anti-discrimination ordinances to protect coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients and front liners.