MANILA - The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill that aims to protect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Lawmakers voted 198-0 in favor of House Bill No. 4982 or the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality (SOGIE) bill.
The measure prohibits and penalizes discriminatory acts by a fine not less than P100,000 and not more than P500,000, or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, or both.
It mandates existing women's desks in police stations to be renamed as Women, Children, and LGBTQ++ Protection Desks, to attend to complaints.
The measure also orders establishments to make available their existing toilets with facilities designated for persons with disabilities as gender-neutral toilets.
It also prohibits publishing information seeking to reveal a person's SOGIE without their consent.
The bill also penalizes the following acts:
- gender profiling
- denying or revoking a professional or other similar kind of license, clearance, except marriage license, issued by the government
- denying access to public service, including military service including SOGIE as criteria for human resource action
- refusing admission or expelling a person from any educational or training institution
- denying a person access to public or private medical and other health services open to general public.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, has a similar bill currently pending at the Senate.
Lawmakers lauded the passage of the bill, which asserts equal rights for all Filipinos.
"The proposed measure is the assertion of the LGBT community not for additional or special rights, but putting forward the recognition of same rights enjoyed by heterosexual individuals as stipulated in the law that are denied by individual and institutional practices," Gabriela Women's Party said in a statement.
Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao also welcomed the passage of the bill, saying: "Ang laban po para sa pagkakapantay-pantay ay laban ng lahat. At sa laban pong ito, ang puhunan po natin ay pagmamahal sa ating kapwa at pag-asa para sa isang lipunang mas makatarungan, mas bukas, at mas pantay."
"Makibeki, wag ma-shokot! Labanan ang diskriminasyon at pang-aapi," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate meanwhile said.
Transgender lawmaker Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman meanwhile cited how the Philippines trailed behind other countries when it comes to equal treatment for the LGBT community.
"I lived abroad for some time. I was able to compare the quality of life. I arrived at the conclusion that there was a lot of work to be done here in our country."
Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora said he voted for the measure because "too many have died simply because of who they are and who they love."
"It is unique in our Constitution that we, as a sovereign people, have promulgated the basic law of the land to be one under a regime of love and equality. Too many have died simply because of who they are and who they love. We should never let such hate go unpunished. So, again, I vote yes to gender equality and I vote yes to love," he said.