House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill, and is the latest iteration of the LGBT anti-discrimination bill (ADB) passed the third and final reading in the House of Representatives. With this, the measure – which prohibits and penalizes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) – is a step closer to becoming law, the first time this went this far in 11 years.
This historic development also comes a year after the privilege speech of transpinay Rep. Geraldine Roman where she stressed that LGBT people are not asking for special right, but are only asking for equal rights, since, “with inclusiveness and diversity, our nation has so much to gain.”
Roman – the first transgender person to win a seat in Congress in the Philippines – also stressed that she “can’t turn my back at the group of people who have long suffered discrimination, and have long been denied adequate legal protection. How can I turn a blind eye to the suffering that I myself experienced in my own life?”
HB 4982 cites as discriminatory:
- Denial of access to public services
- Including SOGIE as a criteria for hiring or dismissal of workers
- Refusing admission or expelling students in schools based on SOGIE
- Imposing disciplinary actions that are harsher than customary due to the student’s SOGIE
- Refusing or revoking accreditation of organizations based on the SOGIE of members
- Denying access to health services
- Denying the application for professional licenses and similar documents
- Denying access to establishments, facilities, and services open to the general public
- Forcing a person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to determine or alter one’s SOGIE
- Harassment committed by persons involved in law enforcement
- Publishing information intended to “out” or reveal the SOGIE of a person without consent
- Engaging in public speech which intends to shame or ridicule LGBTQ+ persons
- Subjecting persons to harassment motivated by the offenders bias against the offended party’s
- SOGIE, which may come in the form of any medium, including telecommunications and social media
- Subjecting any person to gender profiling
- Preventing a child under parental authority from expressing one’s SOGIE by inflicting or threatening to inflict bodily or physical harm or by causing mental or emotional suffering
Any person who commits any discriminatory practice enumerated in the bill may be penalized by a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000; or jailed for no less than one year but not more than six years or both, at the discretion of the court. The court may also impose upon a person found to have committed any of the prohibited acts the rendition of community service in terms of attendance in human rights education and familiarization with and exposure to the plight of the victims.
The SOGIE Equality Bill, which used to be known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill, was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Party-List Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. It was again only in 2006, during the 13th Congress, when the ADB reached second reading.
The bill was championed by Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Party-List Rep. Tom Villarin, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon Garin, Negros Ocicidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, An Waray Party-List Rep. Victoria Noel, Pangasinan Rep. Toff de Venecia, Bataan Rep. Henedina Abad, among others.
Exclusively interviewed by Outrage Magazine, Roman said that the bill passed because of collaboration. On her end, Roman herself personally wrote to her colleagues to tell them that if they can treat her with kindness and respect, they ought to be able to do the same to other members of the LGBT community. This approach – which she dubbed ally-making, instead of turning people who may have legitimate concerns (in this case, as far as the ADB is concerned) into automatic enemies even before a conversation with them is struck – was considered important in eventually getting them to support the bill that has been languishing in Congress for almost 20 years now.
In total, the bill got the nod of 197 congresspeople, with none opposing it.
The landmark bill now awaits a counterpart version in the Senate.