House of Representatives

‘Ang ganda mong transgender ah’: The Benny Abante show at the anti-discrimination bill hearing

Dwight de Leon

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‘Ang ganda mong transgender ah’: The Benny Abante show at the anti-discrimination bill hearing

PRESIDING OFFICER. Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante leads the House panel on human rights meeting on November 15, 2022.

House of Representatives

Remarks that in other countries would have been viewed as insensitive or even homophobic take center stage in a hearing on the anti-discrimination bill in the Philippines' House of Representatives

It was a hot mess of contradictions, ironies, and gender-insensitive comments, as the 19th Congress held its first House hearing on the long-proposed anti-discrimination bill.

In the driver’s seat of the discussions on the bill pushed by the LGBTQ+ community was human rights panel chairman Bienvenido Abante, the pastor-lawmaker from Manila who, just last week, formally proposed to “protect the rights” of straight men and women.

Person, Human, Hand

The proposals tackled by Abante’s panel on Tuesday, November 22, were not limited to the bill pushed by legislators who had long been known as gender equality advocates. The committee also took up measures like the one filed by Abante himself and other versions that seek to prevent discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender, disability, language, and educational attainment among others.

The atmosphere, however, started to become tense when Abante cut off a resource speaker from the University of the Philippines (UP) Gender Law and Policy Program after the latter read their position paper highlighting SOGIE-based discrimination in the Philippines.

“What pissed me off is when you represent UP and you speak on a certain right of a certain individual, that should not be, the anti-discrimination bill is an encompassing right of all,” Abante said.

‘Ang ganda mong transgender ah’: The Benny Abante show at the anti-discrimination bill hearing

Later in the hearing, Abante also made a comment that numerous netizens found rather insensitive.

Ang ganda mo namang transgender (You’re beautiful for a transgender),” Abante told Bahaghari Philippines chairperson Reyna Valmores.

That comment was met with awkward silence in the room, before Valmores said, “At maganda rin po na mga kapwa ko rin transgender na nakakaranas ng discrimination ay maprotektahan din natin, hindi po ba (And it would be great if my fellow transgender people experiencing discrimination will be protected, isn’t it?)”


Conservative and religious groups, meanwhile, used the hearing to quote Bible verses and argue against proposed LGBTQ-related legislation.

“We know in the Constitution that religious expression is inviolable. Nobody in the country should prevent us from that expression,” said Bienvenido’s brother Reuben Abante, who represents the group Bible Believers League for Morality and Democracy. “But lifestyle and orientation is a big question for churches and faith-based organizations.”

House human rights panel vice chairman Eddie Villanueva of CIBAC also took offense at Valmores’ statement that sex is a spectrum.

“Does it mean you would agree at historical facts that happened in London, that there was a woman… who decided to get married with her dog?” Villanueva, also a pastor, asked Valmores. “We should be careful in using the name ‘anti-discrimination’ and yet rendering our people to the state of insanity, extremism.”

Ang tinutukoy dito ay attraction to genders. Hindi dito kasama na maa-attract ka sa hayop o sa robot (What we’re referring to is attraction to genders, not animals or robots),” Valmores replied.

Even as the House has yet to discuss a SOGIE-focused anti-discrimination bill, Abante’s remarks on Tuesday offered a hint on the potential fate of LGBT-related legislation in the 19th Congress.

“This committee will not be influenced by any Western influence,” Abante said. “I do not believe in the United Nation Human Rights [Council], that’s why I commend [Justice] Secretary [Boying] Remulla for standing up for the Filipino nation.”

Abante was referring to the the United Nations Human Rights Council recommendation that the Philippines pass same-sex marriage and SOGIE bill. Remulla had told the UNHRC that the Philippines is not culturally ready for such legislations.

‘Ang ganda mong transgender ah’: The Benny Abante show at the anti-discrimination bill hearing

The Philippines remains predominantly Catholic, and faith-based groups have proactively worked to block efforts to pass a law on SOGIE equality, which has been languishing in Congress for decades.

In the absence of such a law, members of the LGBTQ+ community in the country have been subjected to hate crimes over the years, from gender-based bullying to acts of murder. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.