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ADB stalls in Phl Senate; continues to be political football

Playing with LGBTQI people’s lives.

The Senate version of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) – the Senate Bill No. 1271 – remains stalled in the Philippine Senate, with politicians supposed to interpellate its sponsor, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, either balking or walking out.

SB 1271 was up for interpellation last in today’s session, the last before Congress takes a break until May 15. Earlier communication from sources in the Senate placed Sen. Joel Villanueva as the politician who will interpellate. But the agenda for the day reflected Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian as the person who will interpellate, instead of Villanueva. Though the switcheroo would not have mattered, Gatchalian left before his chance to interpellate, thereby effectively stalling the ADB.

For as long as there are senators still wanting to interpellate, the ADB – or any bill – can’t progress to the next steps, so that this is effectively a delaying tactic.

In her manifestation delivered only a few minutes under six hours since the day’s session started, Hontiveros noted that – contrary to the earlier expression of interest to interpellate by only Gatchalian (as shown in the agenda) – three other senators actually still want to interpellate: Villanueva (again, and even after seemingly giving up his slot to interpellate to Gatchalian), Vicente Sotto III and Koko Pimentel.

In the 17th Congress, the committee report on the ADB was filed in December 2016, which – as the 17th committee report filed – makes it “one of the earliest and first reports to come to the floor,” Hontiveros said.

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Moving forward, Hontiveros said that “hopefully in the next session we can close the interpellation and move to amendments with an attitude of cooperation.”

Villanueva was once a vocal supporter of the ADB, but has been repeatedly cited for backpedaling on backing the proposed law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos. On his official website, Villanueva specifically expressed his worry that the ADB could curtail the right of people to discriminate based on their religious convictions.

For his part, when he was still running for the Senate, Gatchalian said that while he opposes same-sex marriage, members of the LGBTQI community should be protected from discrimination. “We really have to put a lot of mechanism and laws to eliminate discrimination in this country,” Gatchalian said.

The SOGIE Equality Bill was already passed by the likes of Reps. Geraldine Roman and Kaka Bag-ao in the House of Representatives in 2017, the first time it went this far in 11 years. In total, the ADB has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

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