Former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd and now 1-BAP party-list congressman has lambasted the National Bureau of Investigation for discriminately profiling a September 16 Zamboanga City bombing suspect as “Muslim type.”
“There is a need to curb the ‘enthusiasm’ of none other than our law enforcers in making hasty and dangerous descriptions of mere suspects which unwittingly denigrate a whole race of people,” Bello said in a statement.
“It is not surprising that this unfortunate ‘name calling’ results in angry reaction not only from our Muslim brothers but from all those who believe in the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination,” he added.
Bello is the author of House Bill (HB) 5969 that deems it unlawful for any reporter, writer, media outlet, police blotter, government agencies, public and private hospitals or such other institutions to use the word “Muslim” to describe a person suspected of committing any felony.
The fine for such offense ranges from P500 to P3,000.
HB 5969 also seeks suspension of government license, permit or accreditation of the concerned media outfit or establishment for six to 12 months and revocation of government permit to operate and/or prohibition to engage as a media practitioner.
Bello’s bill cites that a Muslim is a person who follows the religion of Islam, a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, that Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life for a fifth of the world’s population and that the continuing and irresponsible use of the word “Muslim” in unpalatable terms in the media has led to further marginalization and ostracism of Filipinos of the Islam faith.
The congressman said stereotyping Muslims has made the word “Muslim” synonymous with radicalism and lawlessness and an unnecessary depiction of Muslims as troublemakers in general who are largely to be avoided because of their perceived violent tendencies.
“Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness, and the great majority have nothing to do with the grave and violent events which, have come to be associated with their faith,” Bello pointed out in his bill.
“The recent faux pas committed by no less than the NBI of engaging in racial profiling when it described a suspect in the recent bombing in Zamboanga City last September 16 in an artist sketch it has released as “Muslim type” reinforces the need for such a measure,” Bello added in closing.