MANILA -- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday expressed concerns over efforts by some lawmakers to derail the bills seeking to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, otherwise known as the SOGIE bills.
CHR Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Center Chief Atty. Twyla Rubin urged lawmakers to continue hearing the bills.
Last Wednesday, the sponsorship of the SOGIE bill was stalled at the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva moved to have it sent to the Committee on Rules, which he chairs.
At the House of Representatives, Villanueva’s father, evangelist and CIBAC Party List Rep. Joel Villanueva moved for the deferment of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality’s hearing on SOGIE bills, calling it “illegal."
But Committee Chairperson Rep. Geraldine Roman asserted that the hearing was legal and cleared by the rules committee.
“Dahil sa nakikita namin na medyo may mga delay or may mga balakid na kinakaharap ngayon ang SOGIE equality bill, kami ay nababahala sa mga developments na ito. Kasi baka ito ay magiging daan na hindi na tuluyang madinig ‘yung SOGIE equality bill, or mapipigilan na ang pagdinig nito sa Kongreso,” Rubin said.
“’Yung panawagan namin talaga, bagamat sa Senate na-refer siya sa committee on rules, sana tuloy-tuloy pa rin ‘yung pagdinig ng importanteng panukalang ito. Hindi matigil yung pagdinig sa panukalang ito,” she added.
Rubin said the CHR, through the years, received several complaints on discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA community.
“Marami sa amin ang nagsasampa ng reklamo na hindi sila natatanggap sa reklamo dahil sa kanilang SOGIE. May situationer kami ng mga LGBTQIA children, mga batang nagrereklamo na sila ay nabu-bully sa schools, dahil sila ay member ng LGBTQ community, naka apekto sa kanilang pag-aaral. Importante ang measure na ito, para hindi na mangyayari ang mga uri ng karahasan na ito,” she said.
“Ang pag-push natin ng karapatan at non-discrimination ng LGBTQIA persons ay hindi kabawasan sa karapatan ng iba. Ang gusto lang natin ay kung ano ang karapatan na naeenjoy ng lahat ay naeenjoy din ng LGBTQIA persons,” Rubin stressed.
Advocates of the measure added that the bill does not only seek to protect members of the LGBTQIA community, but all Filipinos, from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Pantay National Convenor Vince Liban said efforts to delay the passage of the SOGIE bill did not come as a surprise, but he urged lawmakers to listen to Filipinos who support the measure.
“Lahat tayo may tinatawag na sexual orientation, gender identity at expression, or ‘yung SOGIE… Habang mas tumatagal na hindi pumapasa ang SOGIE equality bill, mas nagiging vulnerable pa po ang maraming Pilipino sa diskriminasyon. At mas lalung lumalaganap ang hate at pang-aapi,” he explained.
“If only our legislators listen to Filipinos. Actually 73% of Filipinos agreed with the statement that homosexuality should be accepted by society. As of the moment, at least 10 provinces, 36 cities and 14 municipalities have enacted their own local anti discrimination ordinances. Dahil ditto 33% na ng buong populasyon ang protektado sa SOGIE based discrimination. Interestingly, sa mga lugar na ito, since 2013, wala pang instance na naapakan ‘yung karapatan ng iba’t ibang sector. Bagkus, nabibigyan pa niya ng proteksyon ‘yung mga residente laban sa diskriminasyon,” Liban added.
“These are evidences na ang SOGIE equality bill ay para sa pag-unlad ng mga Pilipino at hindi lang galling sa baluktot na paniniwala. We challenge the enemies of equality to prove otherwise,” he noted.
Mindanao Pride Trustee Thysz Estrada also has a message to those who consider the bill giving “special treatment” to members of the LGBTQIA community.
“1994 ipinasa ang Animal Welfare Act. Ibig sabihin 1994 pa may karapatan ang ating mga alagang hayop, kesa sa ating mga kaibigan, kapatid at kapamilyang LGBTQIA plus... Kung may special tayo na batas to protect animals, why can’t we do so for fellow humans? Unless we think of these fellow humans as not human at all? Where is the care? Where is the love? Their religion teaches love, but we don’t see any love here,” she said.
House Committee on Women and Gender Equality Rep. Geraldine Roman remains optimistic on the chances of the SOGIE bills hurdling the lower house. She said her committee targets to approve the consolidated bill by March, since similar measures have already been tackled in Congress in the last two decades.
She reiterated that the SOGIE bills aren’t about same-sex marriage.
“Very confident. Ang profiling natin sa Congress ngayon, maraming millennials and Gen Z-ers. Marami ring kababaihan. Yung mga “conservatives”, paunti na nang paunti yan,” Roman said.
She also slammed the attempt of Rep. Villanueva to get the bills referred to a different committee.
“People resort to delaying tactic when they lack valid argument,” Roman said.
“Historically, SOGIE equality bill has always been handled in the committee on women and gender equality, which I chair. Whereas, iyung comprehensive anti-discrimination bill ay lagi naman nirerefer sa committee on human rights,” she added.
“When the bill is referred to a certain committee… at may nagrequest na ilipat sa kabila, you also have to also get the approval of the chairperson of the committee where it was referred to. Meaning ako, and I don’t intend to give that approval,” Roman explained.
“I wasn’t born yesterday, I’ve seen how they work, and I’m not about to fall prey to their maneuvers. Alam kung ano ang nangyayari? Sasabihin nila it’s redundant, why even bother? Doon nalang kayo sa comprehensive. When you go to the hearings naman ng anti-discrimination bill, the same people who are telling you to go to that committee, sa human rights, for the comprehensive anti-discrimination bill, are the same ones who remove sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as a protective attribute,” she noted.
Roman reiterated that defending the rights of Filipinos should be based on the Constitution and not on any religious book.
“I might even venture out to thinking na what you really want is to discriminate and get away with it. Why? Maybe, because you think we are sinful? That we deserve to be discriminated against, baka sakaling magbago kami?” Roman said.
“What I am concerned about are the legal rights ng lahat ng Pilipino, LGBT man o hindi. And I’m not about to base the defense of rights on a particular holy book, I just have to base it on the constitution,” she said.
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Spokesperson Fr. Jerome Castillo, meanwhile, said that while the Church is against discrimination, it has issues with the pending SOGIE bills.
“The church is against discrimination of any kind. And on every human being. But then when it comes to a particular bill being deliberated whether in the senate or in the house of representatives, there are more questions to be answered, so therefor, we cannot give our support,” he said.
Despite opposition from some groups, former lawmaker Etta Rosales, who previously authored a similar measure, remains hopeful about the chances of the SOGIE bill getting passed into law, if public support is strong.
“If media is strong, academe is strong, institutions are strong, you have a good chance for the bill to be able to pass. The only way that the bill can be passed is when there are people who are out there. Because the politicians are scared of the people. ‘Pag marami ang mamamayan that assert their rights. Politicians are scared, because they wanted to be voted in office,” she said.
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