LGBTQ+ rights

SOGIE anti-discrimination bill hurdles Senate panel

Michelle Abad
SOGIE anti-discrimination bill hurdles Senate panel

SEEKING EQUALITY. The LGBTQ+ community in Baguio City chants for the passage of an anti-discrimination measure based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) during their Pride Month celebration on June 25, 2022.

Sherwin de Vera

Bill sponsor Senator Risa Hontiveros is optimistic the SOGIE anti-discrimination bill will pass this 19th Congress

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality passed on Tuesday, December 6, the bill seeking to penalize discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), committee chair Senator Risa Hontiveros announced.

Nineteen of 24 senators signed the committee report on Tuesday, according to Hontiveros, who said she was “ecstatic” that the lawmakers came together to support the bill in “just a day.”

Mas lalo akong nabuhayan ng loob na sa Kongresong ito, maipapasa na sa wakas ang SOGIE bill,” Hontiveros said. (I am so excited that, within this Congress, the SOGIE bill will be passed at last.)

Apart from Hontiveros, the following senators signed the committee report:

  • Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
  • Senator Sonny Angara
  • Senator Imee Marcos
  • Senator Cynthia Villar
  • Senator Nancy Binay
  • Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
  • Senator Grace Poe
  • Senator Mark Villar
  • Senator Francis Tolentino
  • Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito
  • Senator Robinhood Padilla
  • Senator Raffy Tulfo
  • Senator Jinggoy Estrada
  • Senator Lito Lapid
  • Senator Chiz Escudero
  • Senator Loren Legarda
  • Senator Bong Go
  • Senator Bong Revilla

Some senators signed with reservations, or stated that they would interpellate, according to a statement from Hontiveros’ office.

“The swiftness with which the committee report was signed and filed is surely a sign of good things to come,” said Hontiveros. “Umaasa ako na tuloy-tuloy na ang pag-usad ng bill na ito para ipakita at iparamdam na tunay na kasangga ng LGBTQIA+ community ang ating Senado.” (I am hopeful that the bill will continuously move forward so that we can show and make the LGBTQIA+ community feel that the Senate is on their side.)

Among the discriminatory acts the SOGIE Equality Bill seeks to make illegal include refusing admission to or expelling a person from any educational or training institution, imposing disciplinary sanctions harsher than usual that infringe on students’ rights based on their SOGIESC.

The bill would also make it illegal to deprive someone of an employment opportunity because they are gay, or deny a person access to emergency health services because of their gender expression.

Penalties include fines of hundreds of thousands of pesos. Institutions refusing to give health services based on SOGIESC for instance can be penalized with a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P300,000, or imprisonment of six months to two years and four months.

SOGIE bill critics have said that the bill may impose on parental authority to raise their children, or schools’ independence to discipline their students. But the bill explicitly states that nothing in the law should be interpreted to disturb the exercise of parental authority or academic freedom.

“The SOGIESC bill’s message is clear: Our country should not tolerate any act of discrimination. Buhay at hanapbuhay ang ipinagkakait natin sa mga miyembro ng LGBTQIA+ nang dahil lang sa mga paniniwala at tradisyong kailangang iwasto. 2022 na, our laws should reflect the realities of our culture,” Hontiveros concluded.

(We are depriving members of the LGBTQIA+ of their lives and livelihoods because of our beliefs and traditions that we must correct. It is already 2022, our laws should reflect the realities of our culture.)

Over in the House of Representatives, Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr. recently filed a bill seeking to protect the rights of heterosexuals, drawing strong reactions from gender rights advocates.

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Abante, a pastor-turned-congressman, claimed that the LGBTQ+ were “clamoring” for legislated rights that are “in contravention to God’s law of creation and procreation.”

Sharmila Parmanand, a gender and human rights fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said that the filing of Abante’s bill appeared to be a reaction to an “imagined threat” in the push for the SOGIE bill. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.