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Comprehensive anti-discrimination bill pushed in Congress, eyed to also benefit LGBTQIA Filipinos

Sen. Sonny Angara assured that members of the LGBTQIA community will still benefit in the passage of a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law. This following Pres. Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressing his intent to expedite the passage of the same, rather than the SOGIE Equality Bill.

Pushing for a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara assured that members of the LGBTQIA community will still benefit in the passage of a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law. This following Pres. Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressing his intent to expedite the passage of an anti-discrimination bill (ADB), rather than the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill.

In July, Angara filed Senate Bill (SB) 137, which seeks to prohibit discrimination based on age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief or activity, political inclination or conviction, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status or medical history, language, physical features, or other status.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rosa Hontiveros is the sponsor of SB 159, the SOGIE Equality Bill that – as the bill’s name stresses – is more focused on SOGIE-related discrimination. This has been erroneously seen to solely benefit only members of the LGBTQIA community, even if everyone – including heterosexual-identifying people – also have SOGIE.

According to Angara, his proposed comprehensive anti-discrimination bill (CADB) is “still a step in the right direction. This bill has better chance of passing because it’s more comprehensive.”

For Angara, the SOGIE Equality Bill is more concentrated on a gender-based discrimination, whereas his version also talks about “religion, belief, ethnicity, appearance and many other issues.”

Angara’s bill lists 13 “acts of discrimination”. Protected attributes under the proposed bill includes age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief, political inclination or conviction, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status or medical history, language, physical features or other status.

The inclusion of SOGIE had to be highlighted, and even with the inclusion of other minority sectors, because there are fears that this will eventually be removed by those opposing the promotion of equal rights for every Filipino.

In July, when the bill was filed, Angara noted that “discrimination, in any shape or form, has no place in Philippine society.” And while the Philippines has come a long way in terms of being an open and equitable society, “there is still a lot more to be done to totally eliminate all forms of discrimination in the country.”

“Discrimination remains a problem be it for women, children, persons with disabilities or the LGBTQ community. We are currently enjoying remarkable economic growth, but while there is still discrimination taking place, we cannot call ourselves a truly progressive nation,” Angara said at that time.

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He added: “Araw araw marami sa ating kababayan ang nakakaranas ng ibat ibang uri ng pang-aapi. Karaniwan ang mga nagaganap na diskriminasyon ay inaakalang normal o katanggap tanggap ng mga taong gumagawa nito… Nais nating maintindihan ng lahat kung anong mga gawain, salita o polisiya na maituturing na diskriminasyon o pang-aapi sa kapwa.

The bill prescribes a penalty of one to six years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to P500,000 for any person found to have committed acts of discrimination.

“Discrimination is a problem that is not confined to a few people alone. It concerns everyone. No one should feel helpless when faced with discrimination. We appeal to our colleagues to support this bill,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, in the Lower House, Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera, the author of an anti-discrimination bill in the House of Representatives, said that she “welcomed” the approach of Angara in including SOGIE-related discrimination as part of the CADB.

Herrera, however, expressed concerns over differing provisions in the anti-discrimination bills proposed in the Lower and Upper Houses.

For instance, there are some prohibited acts of discrimination listed on the House bill that are not included in the Senate bill. Also, while the House bill eyes for all law enforcers to enforce non-discrimination (including the police and other stakeholders), the Senate version identified the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as the sole government body enforcer.

“What is important to us in the House is that all marginalized sectors and persons who are being discriminated against – including the LGBTQI+ – are given equal protection of, due process, access, and welfare under all our laws,” she said.

SB 137 has yet to be taken up in the committee level. It was already referred to the Senate committee on cultural communities, which is helmed by Sen. Imee Marcos.

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