MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday, August 20, questioned the need for a SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) equality bill, saying that some acts of discrimination are "already covered" under present laws.
Pimentel raised the question at the hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality on Tuesday.
The senator said that some discriminatory acts may be covered by Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, which covers forms of sexual harassment and use of words or gestures that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, among others acts.
"Ang dapat nating sagutin talaga is, ano ang maitutulong ng SOGIE bill para mawala o ma-address 'yung mga na-share na karanasan ng discrimination? Kasi marami nang nagsasabi na ang pakiramdam, punishable na rin naman sila ngayon by set of laws," Pimentel said during the hearing.
(What we really need to answer is, how can the SOGIE bill help to remove or address the experiences of discrimination that were shared? Because some said that it feels like these are punishable by existing set of laws.)
Pimentel added that that discriminatory acts towards the LGBTQ+ community should be identified under the SOGIE bill itself, and not in the implementing rules and regulations, to avoid confusion.
"Find out which of the experiences na complaint na lalabas, which will be the ones na addressed by the SOGIE bill. Klaruhin natin 'yan. Otherwise there will be no need for SOGIE bill dahil ang lalabas, may confusion pa," Pimentel said.
(Find out which of the experiences or complaints will be addressed by the SOGIE bill. Let's clarify that. Otherwise there will be no need for a SOGIE bill because there will be confusion.)
During the hearing, trans woman Roi Galfo of LGBT+ party list shared that she was reprimanded in front of her coworkers at business processing outsourcing firm Concentrix for using the women's toilet. Galfo said that she went to the Department of Labor and Employment to file a complaint but nothing happened.
Three senators filed their own versions of the SOGIE equality bill: Senator Risa Hontiveros, the committee chairperson; Senator Imee Marcos; and Senator Francis Pangilinan.
All versions of the bill have provisions for imprisonment as part of the penalties. Pimentel suggested that the criminal provisions of the measure be taken out.
Pimentel also raised concerns on the extent of the proposed measure's "interference" with parental authority, especially for minors who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Hontiveros also said that even if there are laws that cater to forms of discrimination, the SOGIE Equality bill aims to be the Magna Carta for the LGBTQ+.
"There are some instances that education and labor departments do not cover, even if the laws were fully and properly implemented. Apparently, there are still gaps in the existing laws," Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros also said that she doesn't want the measure to be used to merely file cases against perpetrators, but to prevent discrimination against the community.
"It's important that we pass the SOGIE bill for it to be part of the policy of the state. It has to be very clear, that even if it doesn't lead to an administrative or criminal case, every one will recognize gay rights as human rights," Marcos said.
In a media interview on Tuesday, transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez, who experienced discrimination and harassment after she tried to use the women's toilet in a Quezon City mall, said that the measure would help the LGBTQ+ in preventing discrimination at work and to have better to access to health services as well.
In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the SOGIE bill on third and final reading but its counterpart measure languished in the Senate and did not even make it past second reading.
This Congress, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go and Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa joined the lawmakers who expressed support for the measure.