Several days ago, media outlets reported that Sen. Legarda has filed Senate Bill No. 2594 which penalizes persons guilty of religious and/or racial profiling. As reported in these news stories, paragraph 4 of Sen. Legarda’s bill prohibits “employing religious characterization as words of religious import in print and broadcast media when geographic, political, socio-economic or other distinction might be more accurate.” Based on this paragraph, some pastors are now saying that Sen. Legarda’s bill is the start of religious persecution or prohibition of strong Biblical preaching in the Philippines.
At this point in time, I beg to disagree with these pastors. Let me give some background information on this matter first.
 Anti-religious and racial profiling bill not included in Sen. Legarda’s announced agenda for the 15th Congress
The complete title of Sen. Legarda’s bill is “Prohibiting Religious Or Racial Profiling Against Indigenous Cultural Communities”. (Its designation in various media reports as Senate Bill No. 1342 is wrong; SBN 1342 is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s Family Building Act of 2007).
Sen. Legarda filed the bill in 2008 during the 14th Congress, and it was referred to the Senate committee on cultural communities. Since the Senate did not approve SB No. 2549, it has to re-filed for the 15th Congress, if Sen. Legarda so desires. In her press release last July 29, 2010, Sen. Legarda announced the first ten bills in her legislative agenda. Her anti-religious and racial profiling bill, however, is not included in her agenda. (She can, if she wants to, re-file this bill later on.)
 In her explanatory note for the anti-religious and racial profiling bill, Sen. Legarda stated:
“The Constitution clearly provides for the freedom of every Filipino to religion and racial identity. No Filipino is excluded. Even tribes and indigent people of ethnic background, as citizens of our country, should be accorded with such rights. Legarda’s bill enumerates the following acts that shall be deemed punishable:
“The Philippines being a group of islands houses a variety of religious and ethnic groups, the diversity has given way to a number of incidences on racial and religious discrimination. There exists profiling, a police and criminology term that follows the basic sociological science method of understanding the complexities of human society by breaking down members of a population into groups that share common characteristics.
“Certain crimes, such as terrorism, murder and kidnapping, are sometimes deliberately attributed to a religious affiliation.
“Profiling has resulted to stereotyping, causing minority groups to be treated unjustly in restaurants, department stores or shopping malls and even in employment. An obvious prejudice against these groups has sprouted, running counter to our country’s policy in promoting equality and justice.
“Through this proposed measure, we should be able to reduce the discrimination that causes a different kind of terrorism – the kind that fuels hatred, thereby instigating deeper disunity among the people in our country.”
1. Subjecting a person to unnecessary, unjustified, illegal and degrading search because of his manner of clothing, religion, color, creed or ethnic identity;Legarda’s bill prescribes the penalty of arresto mayor minimum to prison correctional minimum or a fine of ten thousand (10,000) to thirty thousand (30,000) pesos, or both upon any person who shall commit any of the acts which constitute religious and racial profiling.
2. Discriminating a person who is applying for a job because of his name, religion or ethnic background;
3. Disallowing the entry of a person to establishment such as restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and similar nature because of his manner of clothing, religion, color, creed or ethnic identity;
4. Employing religious characterization as words of religious import in print and broadcast media when geographic, political, socio-economic or other distinction might be more accurate; and
5. To mimic or imitate a person’s way of speaking particularly his peculiar accent and diction in an insulting and degrading manner.
Is Sen. Legarda’s Senate Bill No. 2594 a precursor to religious persecution or prohibition of strong Biblical preaching?
As I discussed above, the concern that some pastors have is with paragraph 4 which penalizes “employing religious characterization as words of religious import in print and broadcast media when geographic, political, socio-economic or other distinction might be more accurate”. They say that this is the start of religious persecution in the Philippines.
I beg to disagree with these pastors for several reasons:
 Sen. Legarda’s bill is concerned with “profiling” or discriminating on the basis of race or religion. Wikipedia defines "racial profiling as the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest). The practice is controversial and widely considered inappropriate and illegal." In Section 3 of her bill, Legarda defines the term “profiling” as:
“The practice of relying to any degree, on race, ethnicity, and religious affiliations in selecting individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities, except when there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality and timeframe, that links persons of a particular race, ethnicity, religion or national origin to an identified criminal incident or scheme and such other prohibited acts as enumerated in this Act.” What Legarda’s bill proposes to prohibit is using for example the statement “He is a Muslim rebel” when the statement could possibly be “He is an MILF rebel”.
 The freedoms of speech and of religion are enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our 1987 Constitution. The said provisions state:
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.In view of these Constitutional provisions in our Bill of Rights, Sen. Legarda’s bill cannot mean that preachers will no longer be allowed to preach against the errors of other religions in print and broadcast media.It seems to me that the prohibition in Sen. Legarda’s bill applies, not to pastors or preachers, but to professional media practitioners like reporters and anchors in newspapers and television stations.
Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
 What is more disturbing to me is the provision on “discriminating a person who is applying for a job because of his name, religion or ethnic background”. For example, if your church has a Christian school and it needs a Social Studies teacher. Does Sen. Legarda’s bill mean that you are prohibited from not hiring someone who meets the qualifications but who is, let’s say, a Jehovah’s Witness?
Anyway, if ever Sen. Legarda re-files for the 15th Congress her anti-religious and racial profiling bill, it will undergo public hearings. In these hearings, Baptist pastors and other church leaders can and should actively participate to clarify what her bill’s intentions and coverage are.