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LGBTQ+ groups slam 'glaringly dangerous' comments on SOGIE bill at House hearing

Various groups stood with pride as they defended the LGBTQ+ community from what they called "glaringly dangerous" comments made against the community during an online House hearing on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) bill. (EXPLAINER: What you need to know about SOGIE)

During the online hearing held by the House committee on women and gender Equality, on Wednesday, November 4, Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines lawyer Lyndon Caña, for one, condemned the bill , saying that it does not provide any benefits to the “straight community.” 

Caña claimed that the LGBTQ+ community has become a “super special elite class” compared to the rest of society. He added fuel to the fire by further questioning the definition of “sexual orientation” included in the bill, suggesting that necrophilia and pedophilia are sexual orientations endorsed by the LGBTQ+ community.   

Similarly, House Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva implied during the discussion that “emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual rehabilitation” should be given to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Before the session ended, Villanueva, the founder of the Jesus is Lord Church, requested a more “sensible” hearing on the bill with “respectable and credible” faith-based educators and institutions to discuss the issue. 

These bitter remarks have provided no comfort to LGBTQ+ groups and allies. (READ: C’mon guys, it’s 2020: Debunking LGBTQ+ stereotypes)

In a statement, Metro Manila Pride slammed what they called the “glaringly dangerous” comments of Caña and Villanueva amid the onslaught of attacks faced by the community. 

“The misinformation Atty Caña shared is glaringly dangerous: Diminishing ‘orientation, identity, expression’ as mere ‘feelings,’ as well as implying that pedophilia and necrophilia are included in the LGBTQIA+ community,” they said. 

These attacks are not new to the LGBTQ+ community but Metro Manila Pride noted the "ever-increasing" violence experienced by their members.

“As the SOGIE Equality Bill continues to face opposition for two long decades now, the violence against the community grows ever-increasing, and has become endorsed by a macho-fascist leadership,” Metro Manila Pride shared. 

Stand against 'hypocrisy'

Bataan's 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, House panel vice chairperson, said during the hearing that addressing this longstanding discrimination is the main focus of the bill. She is one of the proponents of the SOGIE bill.

Roman, the Philippines’ first transgender woman elected to Congress, called out Cana for his “hypocrisy.” She stressed that the bill just seeks to provide the LGBTQ+ with the same rights as everyone else.

She slammed Caña for deeming the rights ensured by the SOGIE bill as special privileges: “The right to study and the right to work are basic rights.… To say that we (the LGBTQ+ community) have the Constitution is simplistic.”

Roman reiterated their duty as members of Congress to protect marginalized sectors and craft the necessary laws for this. 

More commonly known as the SOGIE equality bill, then-Akbayan Representative Loretta Rosales filed the measure during the 11th Congress while then-Senator Mirim Defensor Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 689 in 2000.

The proposed measure aims to penalize any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to grant members of the LGBTQ+ community access to basic rights and services. 

Call for equality

Members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies have long advocated a SOGIE law.

Women’s group Gabriela Youth-UP Manila stood alongside the LGBTQ+ community and amplified their sentiments on the bill in a statement on Thursday, November 5.

“Since the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, it comes as no surprise that many would oppose this bill despite the fact that it upholds the equality of all people and prohibits gender-based abuse, violence, and discrimination,” Gabriela Youth-UP Manila said. 

The group was swift to call out lawmakers and sectoral leaders like Caña for attacking the bill and the LGBTQ+ community.

They echoed the response of Gabriela National Chairperson Sister Mary John Mananzan, who said religion “should not be used to justify discrimination.”

“Opposing the bill by spouting in the name of bigotry masked by ‘religious freedom’ is tantamount to denying others of basic human rights,” the group said.

SOGIE ‘for everyone’

These attacks have not deterred the LGBTQ+ groups in their fight for equality. 

“Write, rally behind, and pass legislation that is based on, and affirms, human rights,” Metro Manila Pride urged lawmakers.

They appealed to the Catholic community: “Open your eyes, minds, and hearts to the privileges you enjoy, and the oppressive structures that are perpetrated in the name of belief. Truly understand the letter of the bill, and honor the human rights that must be recognized by the state.” 

Gabriela Youth-UP Manila also endorsed bill to create spaces free of harassment and to ensure equal opportunities for everyone regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“It is high time that we unite towards a more progressive society, creating a safe and equal environment once and for all,” the group said. 

In a series of graphics, UP Babaylan likened the opposition to the bill to discrimination, harassment, and violence to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other Filipinos. “The SOGIE Equality Bill is for everyone because everyone has SOGIE," they asserted.

In a series of graphics, Lagablab LGBT Network also stressed that the fight for SOGIE equality benefits everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community. They also stated that the rights ensured by the bill are “not like a buko (coconut) pie,” which is divided among people.

Rainbow Rights Philippines, their their part, pointed out that heterosexual people can also cite the proposed measure for support if a company fires them on the basis of being straight.

Following the controversial comments made during the deliberation, #NoToSOGIEbill became one of the top Twitter trends on Thursday, November 5 as netizens expressed their opposition towards the bill. 

Senator Risa Hontiveros was swift to call out those behind the move, as she emphasized that the SOGIE bill is meant to protect everyone from exclusion and discrimination.

Alongside this, #NoToBigotRights topped the trending Twitter topics on the same night as Filipinos online expressed their indignation over Caña’s remarks. 

#YesToSOGIEBill also made rounds on social media as influencers and netizens alike amplified the call to pass the bill, in the hopes of securing equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and ending the deep-seated discrimination against them. – Rappler.com

Mina Mata is a Rappler intern.