MANILA - The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality tackled on Wednesday the bills seeking to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, otherwise known as the SOGIE bills.
The deliberation proceeded despite a move by CIBAC Party List Rep. and evangelist Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva to defer the hearing, calling it “illegal”.
Villanueva said the panel’s deliberation on the SOGIE bills violates the House rules because the chamber's Committee on Human Rights already held initial deliberations last November on anti-discrimination bills, which had provisions on SOGIE.
“This hearing, it appears, is illegal. Illegal, because this is a clear forum shopping… How can bills with the same subject matter be referred to different committees and deliberated by two different committees? Section 44 of the House rules states that a bill or a resolution shall be referred to only one committee,” he said.
“I move that we defer deliberation on any SOGIE bills in the Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, pending the resolution of the said issue, and until the said issue of jurisdiction is resolved,” he told the panel.
“This issue must be resolved first because this will set a bad precedent that can be abused in the future… Pwede pala para mas malaki ang tsansa na maipasa ang panukalang batas ay mag-file ng kahalintulad na panukalang batas at ma-refer sa ibang committees."
His motion prompted a brief suspension of the hearing.
Upon resumption, committee chairperson Rep. Geraldine Roman said she spoke over the phone with House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe, who told her that the Rules Committee decided that the SOGIE bills will remain with the Women and Gender Equality Committee.
“This is not an illegal meeting… We were given clearance by the Rules committee, so we shall proceed “legally”, while we do our jobs of legislating for the Filipino people,” Roman said.
In her sponsorship speech for House Bill 222, Roman urged fellow lawmakers to support measures that aim to end decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA community, and called on her colleagues to uphold the Constitution.
“As lawmakers, we are fully aware that we cannot base our laws on any particular holy book of whatever religion for that matter, because the only thing we have in common that embraces all of us Filipinos, regardless of our age, sex, gender, civil status, ethnicity, religion, and other personal circumstances, is the Constitution,” Roman said.
“We are here to protect Filipinos from all forms of discrimination. We are not here… to decide what is a sin or what is not. We are here to legislate for the present life and not the afterlife. Hindi po natin trabaho ‘yun sa kongreso. We must focus on the present and dream big for the future,” she added.
“Hanggang kailan natin pahihintulutan ang discriminasyon na ito, as if to say na deserve mo ‘yan, dahil pinili mong maging bakla o tomboy, dahil makasalanan ka o isang abomination in the eyes of the Lord? The time is ripe. The time is now. Ipasa na natin ang SOGIE Equality Bill.”
Gabriela Party List Rep. Arlene Brosas, who authored a similar bill, said such measure is long overdue.
“Sa bawat araw na hinahayaan nating matengga ang batas na ito sa Mababang Kapulungan, lalong dumarami ang kaso ng karahasan sa LGBTQIA+ community na kung saan ang bawat biktima ay hindi nakakatanggap ng hustisya,” she said.
“Contrary to what the opposing groups have been saying, this bill does not seek to marginalize heterosexual individuals but simply to put on record that any acts of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics should not be tolerated,” Brosas added.
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