MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday said a bill seeking to protect individuals from gender-based discrimination has a bleak future in the upper chamber.
Sotto said Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill is a “class legislation” that only aims to protect a certain sector of society.
He also dismissed Hontiveros’ statement that the SOGIE Equality Bill can be likened to the Magna Carta for Women.
“Women cannot be compared to a group like that because, I hate to say this but I have to, If you are a man, you will never be a woman, no matter what you do, because you cannot reproduce. You cannot give birth, you do not have ovaries,” Sotto told reporters.
“You will never be a woman. So this, to me, the SOGIE bill is a bill against women’s rights.”
Sotto said the SOGIE Equality Bill’s future in the Senate is also doubtful, noting “the way it is written now, maraming kontra (many are against it).”
He said he is more amenable to the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill filed by Sen. Sonny Anagara, which seeks to prohibit a wide range of discriminatory acts.
But Hontiveros, during Wednesday’s hearing on the SOGIE Equality Bill, said there is a need to enact a law that specifically caters to the concerns of members of the LGBT community, which historically have been victims of discrimination.
The SOGIE Equality Bill recently became a hot-button issue after transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez was arrested following an altercation with a mall personnel for using a woman’s restroom.
The proposed measure has deepened divisions among various sectors in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed support for the bill’s passage.
While several Christian groups oppose the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, Catholic nun Mary John Mananzan pointed out that the bill only aims to protect from discrimination a particular group which has been the usual victims of violence and oppression.
Mananzan said while issues on sexual orientation are highly debatable, one must not ignore the fact that many people who have chosen to freely express their gender identity are the ones who usually face discrimination.
She explained that heterosexual men would not normally demand equal treatment because "it is a fact that they are not discriminated against as a gender."
"Therefore, it is really the one that is discriminated against that is the focus of our attention," Mananzan said in the same hearing.
"Even if we are really against discrimination of anybody, sometimes you have to focus on groups of people that are actually suffering discrimination and violence."