House OKs bill vs using 'Muslim,' 'Christian' words to tag crime suspects

Manila, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill prohibiting the use of words “Muslim" and “Christian" in mass media to describe any person suspected of committing a crime.

House Bill 100 was among the five measures that were approved in plenary Tuesday, the first day of Speaker Prospero Nograles, who replaced Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia in tumultuous proceedings Monday.

The bill’s main author, Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong and co-author Anak Mindanao Rep. Mujiv Hataman, said the measure’s objective is to penalize media practitioners by imposing a fine of at least P50,000 whenever the words Muslim and Christian are used.

“It is hereby declared unlawful for any person to use in mass media, the words Muslim or Christian or any other words that would denote religious or ethnic affiliation to describe any person suspected of or convicted for having committees criminal or unlawful acts," the bill stated.

Hataman, a human rights advocate, said the bill would go a long way as this would reduce connotations of discrimination in the practice of religion. “Kapag sinabi kasing Muslim, akala ng iba masamang tao (To some Filipinos, the word Muslim connotes evil-doers.)," Hataman said.

The bill provides, however, that only editors of newspapers and broadcast stations would be penalized.

Meantime, the four other measures approved on third and final reading are House Bills 2420 amending the Family Code of the Philippines, HB 2811 penalizing those exploiting women and glorify sexual violence in advertisements, HB 3305 banning obscene porn materials and live sex shows and HB 3323 that allows WWII veterans to receive benefits.

“We just have to work hard. I am very grateful to my colleagues, both in the majority and the minority, for their deep patriotism and diligence to duty. The approval is part of reforms that we are pursuing, we will work very hard," Nograles said.