SONA 2023

Groups flag lack of LGBTQ+ rights in Marcos’ SONA 2023

Michelle Abad

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Groups flag lack of LGBTQ+ rights in Marcos’ SONA 2023

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community of Binan, Laguna, march to celebrate Pride Month on June 24, 2023.


For the second year in a row, the SOGIE anti-discrimination bill is missing from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s priority bills, despite previous pronouncements supporting gender equality

MANILA, Philippines – Gender rights groups called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to give more attention to the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+ community (LGBTQ+), following his leaving out mentioning such rights in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24.

In his speech of over 8,000 words, Marcos failed to mention anything about the rights of women and gender minorities, and the ever-sought-for SOGIE anti-discrimination bill. This measure, which has been languishing in Congress for over two decades, seeks to penalize discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE).

Sa ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ ni Marcos Jr., itsapwera pa rin ang mga bakla at lesbyana (In Marcos Jr.’s ‘New Philippines,’ gay and lesbian people are still outsiders),” said Reyna Valmores, chairperson of LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari. “This is the 2nd State of the Nation Address where Marcos Jr. is notably silent about the LGBTQ+ community — so soon after his so-called Pride Reception last June.”

Marcos held an “LGBT Pride Reception” on June 29 – the tail end of Pride Month – at no less than Malacañang Palace.

“We in the Philippines are not like other places that I feel and see are somewhat narrow-minded. Here in the Philippines, it’s okay as long as you know the person. We look at the person, not anything else. That’s why that is the principle that we follow with this administration and this government,” Marcos had said at the reception a mix of English and Filipino.

In Marcos’ first SONA in 2022, women and gender rights were also kept at a minimum mention. Marcos had ordered the strengthening of programs preventing violence against women and children.

But for the second year in a row, the SOGIE bill remains missing from his priority measures.

On Monday, Marcos gave a portion of his speech tackling social issues – including programs in health and education, especially for children. Bahaghari noted the need for the intersectional attention to the LGBTQ+ in these issues.

Walang inilahad na malinaw na plano si Marcos Jr. sa paglutas ng isyu ng violence against women and children, at sa pagbibigay ng social services para sa kababaihan, bata, at LGBTQ+ community, mula sa healthcare needs gaya ng natal services, pap smears, HIV/AIDS services, mental health care, [at iba pa],” said Bahaghari.

(Marcos Jr. did not give a clear plan to solve issues like violence against women and children, and to give social services to women, children, and the LGBTQ+ community – from healthcare needs like natal services, pap smears, HIV/AIDS services, mental health care, and more.)

EnGendeRights, another gender rights group, said that the government has yet to lay out its plans to address abuses against the LGBTQ+ community, given continuing reports of discrimination.

“We wanted to hear about his administration’s plans to address the violations of [LGBTQ+] people’s rights and to provide expanded assistance to [LGBTQ+] people as they have suffered lifelong discrimination and abuses,” said EnGendeRights executive director Clara Rita Padilla.

“Given the prevailing violations of rights of LGBTQ+ people and lack of respect for equality, diversity and inclusivity, LGBTQ+ will continue to be marginalized and unable to access the government’s intended programs, thus, we call on the President to uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ people and certify the SOGIE Anti-Discrimination Bills as priority,” Padilla added.

Challenges in Congress

The SOGIE bill hurdled the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality on December 6, 2022. Once a bill passes the committee level, the next step is for it to be sponsored at the Senate plenary.

But in February 2023, the bill was reverted to the committee level, with Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva presenting piles of letters from concerned religious groups who appealed for more chances to participate in the hearings.

While the SOGIE bill faces similar challenges from the religious sector at the House discussions, Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman said on the SONA red carpet on Monday that she was confident it would pass. But the transgender lawmaker called out senators for allegedly stalling the bill.

Ang [SOGIE] equality bill, sa lower house kaya namin ‘yan. But of course, Senate is a different matter. Kaya panawagan sa mga senador, ‘wag nilang upuan ang SOGIE equality bill. Let’s discuss it, give it a fair share of time,” she said. (We at the lower house can handle the SOGIE equality bill. But of course, the Senate is a different matter. So I my call to the senators is, they should not sit on the SOGIE equality bill.)

“You are all capable and intelligent senators, you can discuss and debate in an open, calm, and constructive manner. Pero ‘yong uupuan mo (But to sit on it), that’s unbecoming,” she added.

In the 2022 campaign, Marcos had shown to be one of the most progressive among the presidential candidates. He was open to divorce and abortion for severe cases. In 2016, when he was a candidate for the vice presidency, he said he had nothing against same-sex marriage if Congress approved a bill for it.

But women’s rights advocates point out that Marcos has yet to show a clear roadmap to better women and gender equality in the country.

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Feminists urge Marcos to advance women’s rights he claims to stand for

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According to a June survey from the Social Weather Stations, a big majority or 79% of Filipino adults agreed that gays and lesbians are just as trustworthy as any other Filipino. It is an increased figure compared to previous years. – with a report from Jairo Bolledo/

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.