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Lawmakers come on board on LGBT hate crimes

Following consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, lawmakers are now eyeing at pushing for legislations that will “work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

Philippine Congress

The seven-member Makabayan bloc, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao in the House of Representatives took measures to address hate-motivated crimes and violence directed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

The Makabayan bloc – composed of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, and Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus – filed a resolution on October 29 to seek for a congressional inquiry “on reported cases of hate crimes committed partly or wholly on the basis of prejudice over a person’s age, race, religion, sexuality, gender preference, ethnicity, nationality, disability, political belief or affiliation with the end view of crafting a landmark legislation against said hate crimes.”

Following a series of consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, the Makabayan solons filed House Resolution No. 1625 for Congress to perform its “constitutional obligation to work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

Meanwhile, “Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez added that their bill under consultation aims to achieve three reforms in strengthening protection of the LGBT community.

Firstly, the bill is being studied in relation to the constitutional freedoms in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including freedom of expression. This is to ensure that it will not muzzle nor penalize the people’s freedom of expression but violent crimes which target, among others, people because of their SOGIE.

Secondly, “we are studying further revisions to the Revised Penal Code which will either (a) include as an aggravating circumstance to crimes against persons or property the circumstance of committing such crimes because of a bias against one’s SOGIE or (b) qualify a crime against person or property to a different crime of higher penalty whenever the perpetrator committed the crime because of a bias against one’s SOGIE (for example, instead of homicide the crime will be murder), with a presumption that whenever the victim is an LGBTI person then the crime is already qualified.”

Lastly, “we are also studying the manner by which ‘hate crimes’ may be proven, given the existing definitions of crimes.”

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PARTICIPATORY APPROACH

Ridon, the lead author of HR 1625, explained that there is a need for “active engagement and participation” of sectors that will be covered by the envisioned anti-hate crime bill.

“That’s why we are starting the process with a resolution in aid of legislation. We don’t want to jump off the boat and go file a bill without providing maximum room for participation of organizations of the LGBT community, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and other sectors covered by the envisioned legislation,” Ridon said.

HR 1625 traces the history of anti-hate crime legislation in the world, and aims to come up with a committee report that will serve as basis for drafting the Anti-Hate Crime Law.

“In HR 1625, we identified key issues that need to be covered by the Anti-Hate Crime Bill. This includes criminal-penalty-enhancement provisions, provisions that require administrative agencies to collect hate crime statistics, and of course provisions on education and welfare protection of vulnerable sectors,” Ridon explained.

“We are currently in consultation with the LGBT community for the necessary actions that will put an end to these unwarranted hate-motivated acts and hopefully eliminate further violence and loss of lives among its members. Further, we hope to set in place the fitting penalties that will deter the perpetrators from committing these acts and allow the LGBT people to openly express their sexual orientation,” Gutierrez said.

PROTECTION FOR VULNERABLE SECTORS

The seven lawmakers of Makabayan said that their resolution will pave the way in the crafting of a law that will protect vulnerable sectors from hate crimes or “criminal offenses done based on actual or perceived prejudice over an individual’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or ethnicity.”

“The death of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude allegedly in the hands of a US Marine has reignited the campaign to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement and likewise spurred public demand for the legislation of an anti-hate crime law,” the Makabayan solons noted in HR 1625.

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“Recent deaths of members of the LGBT community points to the urgency of an anti-hate crime legislation. In the past, members of vulnerable groups do not only feel discrimination in employment and social services, but also fall victim to crimes motivated by hate over their protective characteristic. It is timely and of utmost necessity that the State, through Congress, enact and enforce anti-hate crime laws for the protection of vulnerable sectors and to determine criminal liabilities of offenders,” they further noted.

SWIFT PASSAGE OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL

Gutierrez and Bag-ao also urged Congress to swiftly and immediately pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, saying this will usher in much-needed action to secure the rights and welfare of the LGBT community.

Filed on July 1, 2013, House Bill 110 seeks to prohibit all forms of discrimination and to provide penalties against discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

According to Section 3(c) of the bill: “Discrimination shall be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether actual or perceived, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.”

“This measure will ultimately bring forth a culture of acceptance of LGBTs in our society. It does not prescribe special rights. Instead, it cements into our legal system the basic rights found in the Constitution and in international agreements,” said Bag-ao, the principal author of the bill.

Bag-ao called on her fellow legislators to act against any form of discrimination against the LGBT community.

“It is our duty to create safer spaces for Filipino LGBTs. By passing legislation against discrimination and hate crimes, we can ensure that the rights, welfare, and dignity of our fellow citizens are upheld and protected. Now, more than ever, concrete action on the part of Congress is an imperative. Clearly, in the murder of Jennifer, our struggle goes beyond discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our fight extends to hate that is translated into violence,” Bag-ao said.

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