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MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros did not mince words when she reacted to Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva’s remark that the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression and Sex Characteristics Equality Act or SOGIE bill was not a priority bill of the 19th Congress.
“It is sheer numbness to say that the SOGIE Equality Bill is not urgent. Bigyan natin ng hustisya ang ating mga kababayang hindi malayang nakakapamuhay dahil lang sa kasarian nila (Let’s give justice to our fellowmen who can’t freely live because of their gender),” Hontiveros said on Wednesday, June 7.
Hontiveros, author of the bill and chairperson of the Senate committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, said she expects the bill will go through the proper legislative process, according to the rules of the Senate.
“Paulit-ulit sa balita ang mga mag-aaral na nabubully dahil sa kanilang SOGIE, mga napagkakaitan ng serbisyong medikal, at hindi nakakakuha ng ganap na benepisyo sa trabaho dahil sa diskriminasyon,” she said.
(It’s always in the news that students are being bullied because of their SOGIE, others are being deprived of medical services, and not getting proper work benefits because of discrimination.)
In February, the SOGIE bill was reverted to the committee level after Villanueva presented letters from concerned religious groups at the Senate session.
Villanueva showed the letters from various religious groups who claimed they were not consulted during the technical working group meetings, or that they wanted more chances to participate in the discussions on the proposed measure.
The senator belongs to the born-again Christian group, Jesus is Lord Movement (JIL), which was founded by his father Eddie Villanueva, a chief critic of the SOGIE bill.
The SOGIE anti-discrimination bill hurdled the Senate committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality on December 6, 2022, with the committee report signed by 19 senators. Once a bill passes the committee level, the next step is for it to be sponsored at the Senate plenary.
On Tuesday, June 6, Villanueva said that the bill was not considered a priority measure.
“I don’t see any urgency for that particular measure. I don’t know why, who is following it up, or saying that it is a priority measure because it is not a priority measure to begin with,” he said.
Swift passage of Maharlika
Hontiveros went on to compare how the Senate swiftly passed the controversial Maharlika bill against the SOGIE bill which has been languishing in the Congress for over two decades. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had certified the Maharlika bill as urgent.
”Yung Maharlika bill nga na isang beses lang inihain sa Senado, na hindi naman kailangan sa ngayon, naipasa agad. Bakit yung SOGIE bill na napakatagal nang nandiyan, hinaharangan?” she asked.
(The Maharlika bill was passed in just one filing at the Senate, which is really not needed now. Why is it that the SOGIE bill, which has been pending for so long, is being blocked?)
Reacting to Hontiveros, Villanueva said that he doesn’t understand why he is being painted as “anti-LGBT.” He even said that he has friends from the sector.
“I love the LGBTQ+ community. I am super close to Paul Cabral, Boy Abunda. Super-proud hairdresser ko si Alex Carbonell for many many years! And for some individuals and other media outlets to continue painting me as anti-LGBTQ+ is more than preposterous! Who wants to be discriminated? Discrimination is pure evil!” he said.
Cabral is a Filipino fashion designer, and Abunda is an entertainment talk-show host.
While the Philippines has no laws criminalizing homosexuality, it also does not have laws focused on protecting them. The problem, advocates stress, goes beyond marriage equality. Without a national law, several members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to live in layers of fear and inequality. Some stop living all together. – Rappler.com