House of Representatives

Gender identity protection not needed, says author of anti-discrimination bill

Rambo Talabong

PASTOR LAWMAKER. Manila 6th District Representative Benny Abante at the House of Representatives.

Rappler screenshot

'Removing gender identity is not an act of discrimination,' says Manila 6th District Representative Benny Abante

Deputy Speaker Benny Abante, one of the authors of the comprehensive anti-discrimination bill at the House of Representatives, believes “there is no need” for protection based on gender identity.

“We have gender, we have sexual orientation, we have sex characteristics. There is no need for us to put up gender identity. Removing gender identity is not an act of discrimination,” Abante said at the hearing of the House human rights committee on the substitute bill for the proposed comprehensive anti-discrimination law on on Tuesday, May 11.

The Manila 6th District Representative believes that including banning discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” was already “redundant,” as the bill bans discrimination on the basis of gender, gender expression, and sex characteristics.

Abante, a pastor, added that he has already conceded “too much” during the deliberations on the proposed bill.

Is it really redundant?

Experts and lawmakers in the hearing explained to Abante that gender identity protection should be retained in the bill as it is different from gender expression. (WATCH: EXPLAINER: What you need to know about SOGIE)

They explained that gender expression refers to how people express their identity, while gender identity is how people see themselves. Gender expression often reflects the gender identity of a person, but they are still separate components of a person.

Abante remained unconvinced. He did not see the need to follow international conventions against discrimination, citing the protection of “Filipino culture and Filipino moral values.”

The vote

Because of this, Quezon City 4th District Representative Bong Suntay, the House panel chairman, called for a vote on the inclusion or exclusion of “gender identity” as one of the protected attributes in the bill.

The panel voted 13-1 to retain “gender identity” as a protected attribute. Abante was the only lawmaker who voted for its exclusion.

The lawmakers who sided with Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman for the inclusion of gender identity in the proposed measure explained that there was “no harm” in keeping the provision.

The House human rights committee adjourned its meeting at 1 pm on Tuesday without approving the bill. It originally aimed to approve the bill on Tuesday so that it could be deliberated on May 17, or when Congress reopens. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.