Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “religious sensitivity” seminar to prevent a repeat of the discriminatory use of “Muslim type” to describe the suspect in the Sept. 18 bombing of a bus in Zamboanga.
“The best thing to do is to have our law enforcers undergo retraining and orientation to be more sensitive against religious discrimination,” said Gatchalian, a former three-term Valenzuela City mayor and now a majority member of the House Committee on Local Government.
Gatchalian warned that Islamic extremists like the Islamic State might take advantage of this and promote hatred among Filipinos of different religions.
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“Religious discrimination sets Filipinos against their fellow Filipinos,” he said. “Our law enforcers themselves should lead by example in respecting religions and promoting harmony among existing religions in the country. This should discourage extremists from sowing discord among Filipinos,” the lawmaker pointed out.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the investigation of several NBI agents for alleged racial profiling and discrimination against Muslims in connection with their probe into the recent bombing in Zamboanga City.
Saying that her agency does not tolerate discrimination against any group or sector of society, De Lima ordered the investigation of the NBI’s Western Mindanao office for using an artist’s sketch of a suspect in the Zamboanga blast with the label, “Muslim type.”
“Discrimination has no place in our country. Using the description “Muslim type” for suspected terrorists is condemnable since this is due to the ignorance of some investigators when it comes to religious sensitivities,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian said local government units have a role in promoting racial and religious harmony among its constituents like what the Valenzuela City LGU, together with the Department of Education, did when it launched last week the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education Program to curb discrimination against Muslims.
Under the said program, two madrasahs have been opened in Paso de Blas Elementary School and in Caruhatan East Elementary School.
The program is part of Valenzuela City’s Education 360 Investment Program, in which the local government poured investments to solve public education’s multi-dimensional problems including building school infrastructure; holding camps for teachers, parents, and students; curriculum development; provision of free school supplies; implementing the K to 6 Feeding Program, and; giving incentives to parent-student participation in school activities.
The city’s Education 360 program won the 2015 Galing Pook Award for Outstanding Local Government Program. (Monica Cantilero)