Though the resistance against the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill in the Senate did not come as a surprise to Vice President Leni Robredo, she reiterated that the real issue is really about understanding and respecting the rights of all members of society regardless of their SOGIE.
The position of Robredo was stressed by the Vice President’s spokesman, Atty. Barry Gutierrez, in a radio program last August 24, where he also noted that the bill, which aims to protect members of the LGBTQIA community, had been trying to hurdle Congress for almost two decades now.
“Bago pa lang pumasok sa Kongreso si VP Leni — sabay kami — almost 16 years na iyong batas na iyon na nakabinbin sa Kongreso. Kaya halos dalawang dekada na itong pinaguusapan,” said Guttierez said. “Hindi naman nakakagulat, actually, na nag-protest ng ganiyang posisyon si (Senate President Vincente Sotto). Sa kasaysayan nitong batas na ito, madami talaga sa miyembro ng Senado at Kongreso ang nagpapahayag ng kanilang—hindi naman pagtutol, pero mayroon silang mas ikinababahala dito sa bill na ito.”
Sotto earlier said that the Senate could pass an anti-discrimination bill, but not one that was focused on members of the LGBTQIA community. “Anti-discrimination on persons pwede. Pero focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!” he said.
He later clarified that he meant to say that the bill would have “no chance of passing in the Senate IF it transgresses on academic freedom, religious freedom, and women’s rights.”
But for Robredo, a human rights lawyer and a supporter of the LGBTQIA community, the issue was about understanding and respecting the rights of all members of society regardless of their SOGIE.
“Dati pa naman, ang aming pananaw dito ay kaunting paliwanag lang. Kailangan lang maintindihan talaga na ito ay isang batas naman na hindi naglalayong basagin ang karapatan ng nino man. Bagkus, ito ay isang panukala nga na nagsisikap lamang na bigyan ng proteksyon itong ating mga kababayang LGBT kung sila ay magiging biktima ng diskriminasyon,” Guttierez said.
Debates for the SOGIE Equality Bill were ignited when Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman, was not allowed to use the female toilet of Farmers Plaza in Araneta in Cubao, Quezon City. But Diez, who has been in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, eventually fashioned herself as the sole representative of the local LGBTQIA community/as the “face of the LGBT movement”.
“Simple lang naman ang ating pananaw dito at ito din iyong layon ultimately ng SOGIE (Equality) Bill, baka kailangan nating matuto siguro ng respeto siguro sa isa’t isa,” Gutierrez ended.