Minority lawmakers oppose same-sex unions in PH

Mara Cepeda
Minority lawmakers oppose same-sex unions in PH
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez says a same-sex couple locked in a kiss in a wedding ceremony 'is not pleasant to look at'

MANILA, Philippines – Most members of the House minority bloc are opposing same-sex unions, with two ranking members arguing that homosexual relationships go against natural law. 

The lawmakers made their stand in a press conference on Wednesday, October 5, when asked about Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s plan to file a bill institutionalizing same-sex civil unions in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country. 

Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza said that during a meeting earlier this week, there was a “unanimous” vote among minority members to oppose same-sex civil unions. (READ: Same-sex marriage, love and dissent

“We were unanimous to reject it simply because you are going against the natural law of man and woman, marriage, to start a family,” said Atienza, the representative of pro-life Buhay party list.

He added that they also agreed to oppose any form of discrimination against any individual. (READ: Roman: ‘Sky will not fall’ if same-sex civil union bill is passed)

‘Yung values natin, importante ‘yan (Our values are important). We respect the rights of everyone… Kung gusto mong ibigay ang property mo, ang buong pagmamahal mo sa isang tao (If you want to give your property, your full love to a person), nobody should meddle with your freedom to love anyone you would love. But we’re talking about institutions here. We’re talking about laws. We’re talking about religion,” argued Atienza.

“Do whatever you want, but let’s stick to the natural law. Marriage is between a man and a woman. May kasabihan (There is a saying), ‘God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’” he added. 

For his part, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said same-sex couples kissing in a wedding ceremony “is not pleasant to look at.” 

“Ini-imagine ko kasi. ‘Di ba sa wedding merong altar? Tapos kakanta ng Here Comes the Bride’]. Hinihintay ng groom na guwapong-guwapo. Tapos darating ‘yung bride, mas guwapo dun sa groom!” said Suarez, eliciting laughter from his colleagues. 

(I can just imagine. In a wedding, there’s an altar, right? Then they’ll sing ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ The handsome groom will be waiting. Then the bride will arrive, only he is more handsome than the groom!)

Tapos pagdating sa altar, ‘di ba may kiss? Medyo hindi naman maganda tignan. Iniisip ko, on the other hand, kung babae, ganoon din (Then at the altar, you kiss, right? It’s not pleasant to look at. I’m thinking it’s the same for women),” added the Minority Leader.

He and Atienza previously told Rappler that Alvarez’s proposed bill might only distract the 17th Congress from passing President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda. 

Constitution does not recognize it? 

AKO Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr, however, referred to the 1987 Constitution to explain the collective stand of the minority bloc. 

He explained that for the framers of the 1987 Constitution, Section 12, Article II as well as Article XV recognizing the rights of the Filipino family refer to “stable heterosexual relations.”

“[The] family, it should be in accordance with our natural law, our longtime Filipino tradition. It should be a marriage between a man and a woman,” said Garbin. 

Section 12, Article II states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” 

Article XV lists down the rights of the Filipino family.

According to Garbin, lifting the country’s prohibitions on same-sex unions would first require a constitutional amendment.

“Now, the provisions of the Family Code is very telling, and this is the clear manifestation in respect of the constitutional provisions and of course, the intent of the framers of the Constitution. That’s why under the Family Code, when we define marriage, we speak of a permanent union between a man and a woman,” he said. 

Alvarez, however, also referred to the Constitution’s preamble in defending his proposed bill.

The preamble reads: “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.”

Lone supporter

Advocates for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community have been rallying support to allow same-sex marriage in the country, but were met by strong opposition of the Catholic Church.

A May 2015 The Standard survey also showed that 7 out of 10 Filipinos oppose same-sex marriage, with 70% of survey respondents saying they “strongly disagree.” 

Only Kabayan Representative Harry Roque from the minority supports Alvarez’s proposed measure.

“[I] will support it as it promotes the right to privacy,” he told Rappler in a text message. 

During the press conference on Monday, he defended his stand through a “human rights perspective.”

From a human rights perspective, unang-una, may mga decision kasi na tanging mga mamamayan lamang ang puwedeng mag-desisyon. Isa na diyan ang kung sino ang mamahalin mo at kung sino ang gusto mong maging esposo. Kaya nga, ‘yan ‘yung tinatawag na right to privacy, mga bagay na hindi puwedeng panghimasukan ng kahit sino man!” said Roque, a human rights lawyer. 

(From a human rights perspective, there are things that only the citizen can decide on. This includes who he or she will love and become his or her spouse. That’s why it’s called right to privacy, because no one else can interfere with that!) 

He explained that people’s biases against same-sex relationship usually stem from their religious beliefs.  

‘Yung mga relihiyon, ‘di mo mako-compel kung ayaw nila (You cannot compel religions) because that’s also guaranteed under the separation of Church and State,” Roque said. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.