MANILA, Philippines – Tensions ran high between a lawmaker and a gender equality advocate during the second House hearing on the bill seeking to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE).
The brouhaha started after Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches national director Bishop Noel Pantoja, who opposes the bill, argued that the 1987 Constitution already protects men, women, and all Filipinos.
But House gender equality committee chairwoman Geraldine Roman pointed out that the present charter does not specify what constitutes a discriminatory act, raising the need for enabling laws.
Roman asked University of the Philippines Gender Law and Policy Program director Evelyn (Leo) Battad whether her statement is correct, and when the latter answered in the affirmative, Abante took a swipe at the college professor.
“When you said self-executing, that’s a gray area. My goodness, you know the Constitution. The Constitution itself is executing,” Abante said on Wednesday, February 22.
Battad did not back down, and refuted Abante’s claim that what she said was just a “legal opinion.”
“I’m not giving a legal opinion. It is a legal statement that we learn and taught based on jurisprudence in constitutional law that principles and policies are not self-executory, and we need enabling laws,” she said.
“We’re talking here of the SOGIE equality bill, especially when its say equality between men and women. They have the binary concept and it did not include LGBTQI, and that’s why we want to clarify, and also to define what is discrimination, because when you speak of equality, there are many definitions of equality,” Battad added.
Losing his cool, Abante said she was not allowed to argue.
“You are not a part of this Congress,” he said. “You are actually a making a statement that is biased to this committee.”
TWG creation opposed
Later in the hearing, Abante proposed to form a technical working group to further study and consolidate the bills, which the committee approved.
But CIBAC Representative Brother Eddie Villanueva, who was on a restroom break when the motion was made, opposed its approval upon his return.
“I cannot accept that we will just resort to the creation of technical working group without proper hearing. Let’s give all these resource persons a chance,” he said.
Roman assured Villanueva that all invited guests will be given a chance to speak, but he later said, “There is no 100% free market of ideas in this hearing.”
“[I] kindly request you to refrain from accusing this committee and its members from suppressing because we are all here and open to listen to your ideas,” Roman said.
Villanueva’s son, Senator Joel Villanueva, had earlier taken the same tack in the Senate, where he succeeded in reverting the bill not only to the committee level, but also got it referred to the rules committee, which he chairs. The senator had claimed that many religious groups wanted to speak up on the bill, which had been languishing in Congress for the past two decades, or since 2000. – Rappler.com
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