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House approves SOGIE equality bill on 2nd reading

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in over a decade, a bill that would prohibit and provide penalties for discrimination over a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) was approved at the House of Representatives on second reading on Wednesday, September 13. 

“This is a victory for equality. We are moving closer towards realizing our aspiration for a fair and free society where no one will be discriminated based on SOGIE,” said Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao, principal author of House Bill Number 4982. Bag-ao’s co-sponsors of the measure include Bataan 1st District Geraldine Roman and DIWA Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar.

The SOGIE Equality Bill protects people from discriminatory acts such as:

Those convicted of discriminating against a person as defined in the bill shall be fined not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000, or be imprisoned for less than one year but not more than 6 years or both.

A court can also opt to impose community service in the form of human rights education and familiarization with and exposure to the plight of victims, according to a release from Bag-ao’s office.

Discrimination, as defined in the bill is “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or preference and which has the purpose or effect of impairing the recognition, access to, enjoyment, or exercise by all persons on an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.”

The bill further clarifies that one’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the person being discriminated “shall not be relevant for the purpose of determining whether an act of discrimination has been committed.

The following are further definitions provided for in the bill:

HB 4982 is a fusion of several measures filed by legislators in the House. Other lawmakers who pushed for its passage include Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, AAMBIS-OWA Representative Sharon Garin, Negros Occidental 6th District Representative Mercedes Alvarez, An Waray Representative Victoria Noel, Pangasinan 4th District Representative Toff de Venecia, and Bataan Representative Henedina Abad. Laguna 3rd District Representative Sol Aragones has also led legislators in defending the bill during plenary deliberations.

Previous congresses had tried to pass a SOGIE Equality Bill several times in the past. It was first filed by then Akbayan Representative Etta Rosales during the 11th Congress. It was approved on 3rd and final reading by the House, but died after failing to get past the Senate.

In 2006, the bill reached second reading at the House during the 13th Congress.

Bag-ao said they expect the bill to be approved on third and final reading before the House adjourns in October for a month-long break. Its counterpart measure is also being tackled in the Senate. – Rappler.com