Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III questioned the need to pass the SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) Equality Bill, the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, saying that some acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community are actually “already covered” under present laws.
During the August 20 hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, Pimentel expressed the need to specify what the SOGIE Equality Bill will really address.
“Ang dapat nating sagutin talaga is, ano ang maitutulong ng SOGIE (Equality) Bill para mawala o ma-address ‘yung mga na-share na karanasan ng discrimination? Kasi marami nang nagsasabi na ang pakiramdam, punishable na rin naman sila ngayon by set of laws (What we need to answer is, how can the SOGIE Equality Bill help to remove or address the experiences of discrimination that were shared? Because some said that it feels like these are punishable by existing set of laws),” Pimentel said.
For instance, some of the discriminatory acts faced by members of the LGBTQIA community may already be covered by Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, which prevents various forms of sexual harassment and use of words or gestures that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, among others acts.
Pimentel stressed the need for the identification of discriminatory acts done against LGBTQIA people in the SOGIE Equality Bill, instead of waiting for the implementing rules and regulations t identify the same, as this will avoid confusion.
“Klaruhin natin ‘yan. Otherwise there will be no need for SOGIE bill dahil ang lalabas, may confusion pa (Let’s clarify that. Otherwise there will be no need for a SOGIE Equality Bill as it will just confuse/obfuscate),” Pimentel said.
During the same hearing, Pimentel also panned the use of the case of Gretchen Diez to push for the passage of the ADB.
On August 13, Diez – a trans woman – attempted to use the female toilet of Farmer’s Plaza in Cuba, Quezon City. After an altercation with the janittress manning the facility, she was handcuffed and then detained.
After only being in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, Diez now fashions herself as the “face of the LGBT movement.”
“I don’t think that the case of Gretchen (Diez) is a good example of (a discrimination case against LGBTQIA people) to promote this bill,” Pimentel said, adding that “if you conduct a survey, people will be divided.”
For Pimentel, “there would be discrimination if Gretchen (was not) allowed to use any CR.” But this was not the case, since Diez was allowed to use other toilet facilities – e.g. male toilet, and all-gender PWD toilet. It was Diez who refused to do so.
There is a need for “balancing of interests,” Pimentel stressed, particularly if may “umaangal naman na female (there are women who are complaining)”, referring to those who were assigned female at birth and who may express discomfort sharing toilet facilities with transgender women.
Various LGBTQIA activists have repeatedly stressed that the discrimination experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines go beyond the issue raised in the Gretchen Diez debacle.
Still during the Senate committee hearing, mentioned was a survey conducted by Rainbow Rights Project Inc. (R-Rights) with Metro Manila Pride Inc. from 2017 to 2019, with the results showing that 51% of 400 LGBTQIA community members surveyed claiming that they experienced discrimination in public schools, 31% in the streets, and 28% in private schools.
In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the SOGIE bill on third and final reading but its counterpart measure languished in the Senate and did not even make it past second reading. Now, in the 18th Congress, three senators filed their own versions of the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Upper House: Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Imee Marcos and Sen. Francis Pangilinan.