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After 17 years, LGBT anti-discrimination bill up for Senate debate

Camille Elemia
It is the first time an anti-discrimination bill reaches the Senate plenary

'HISTORIC.' After nearly 2 decades, a bill prohibiting discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex community finally reaches the Senate plenary and is now up for debate. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – After nearly 2 decades, the bill seeking to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community from hate crimes and discrimination has finally reached the Senate plenary. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law)

Calling it a “historic first,” Senator Risa Hontiveros sponsored the committee report containing Senate Bill 1271 or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, on Wednesday, December 14 – the last session day for 2016.

Citing the case of slain Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude, Hontiveros said the Philippines has the highest rate of murders of transgender people in Southeast Asia and the second in the continent. (READ: Killing of Jennifer Laude a ‘hate crime’ – police report)

Hontiveros said the bill, if passed into law, would ensure that stigma and hate would not hinder LGBTQIs from accessing education, healthcare, employment, and other basic rights.

“Globally, fundamental victories were accomplished in terms of securing LGBT rights and welfare, more notably an adoption or strengthening of their respective anti-discrimination laws,” Hontiveros said in her sponsorship speech. “However, the same thing can’t be said for the Philippines. For the last 17 years, Congress has failed to pass the anti-discrimination bill. The LGBT community cannot wait any longer.” 

Twelve senators signed the committee report. Aside from Hontiveros, others who signed it are: Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Senators Leila de Lima, Loren Legarda, Juan Edgardo Angara, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

In 2017, senators are expected to debate on the measure and introduce their own amendments before the committee approves the new version. It would then be up for approval in the 2nd and in the 3rd and final reading.

Recent Senate records show the bill was first filed in 2000 by the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and by former Akbayan Representative Loretta Rosales. Santiago and former senator Ramon Revilla Jr filed similar measures in 2004 but ended up in limbo. They re-filed them in the 14th congress but the bills only reached the committee level. More senators filed similar measures in the 15th and 16th congresses but to no avail.

Similar measures are now pending in the House of Representatives but are still in the committee level. In the previous 16th Congress, the measure hurdled the House committee on women and gender equality after a series of debates and amendments. It, however, failed to get the votes of the plenary. (READ: Emotional Roman urges Congress to pass anti-discrimination bill)

Prohibited acts, penalties

The measure prohibits the following discriminatory practices against LGBTs:

  1. Promoting and encouraging stigma on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE) in the media, in educational textbooks, and other medium. Inciting violence and sexual abuse against any person or group on the basis of SOGIE is likewise prohibited.
  2. Including the disclosure of sexual orientation in the criteria for hiring, promotion, work assignment, giving incentives and priviliges, among others in both the private and public sector, including the military and the police.
  3. Refusing admission or expelling a person from any educational or training institution on the basis of SOGIE.
  4. Imposing disciplinary sanctions or penalties harsher than customary or similar punishments, requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions that infringe on the rights of students or trainees
  5. Refusing or revoking the accreditation, formal recognition, registration or plan to organize of any organization, group, political party, institution or establishment, in educational institutions, workplaces, communities, and other settings, solely on the basis of the SOGIE of their members or of their target constituencies
  6. Denying a person access to public or private medical and other health services open to the general public, as well as access to public and private health insurance, including HMOs
  7. Denying an application for or revoking any government license, authority, clearance, permit, certification, or other similar documents necessary to exercise a profession or business
  8. Denying a person access to or the use of establishments or services, including housing, open to the general public. The act of giving inferior accommodations or services shall be considered a denial of access
  9. Subjecting or forcing any person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to determine or alter the person’s sexual orientation and gender without the expressed approval of the person, except in cases of minors
  10. Subjecting any person to profiling, detention, or verbal or physical harassment. Profiling, detention, or verbal or physical harassment on the basis of SOGIE by members of law enforcement agencies, including the military, police, immigration, is likewise prohibited.
  11. Subjecting a person to any other acts that shall have the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the enjoyment, recognition, and exercise of a person’s human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Violators may be fined at least P100,000 to P500,000, depending on the act committed. They may also face imprisonment for at least 1 year to 12 years, depending on the court’s decision.

Government officials who would refuse to investigate, prosecute, or act on any complaint shall face administrative sanctions. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com