Different parties opposing the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill frame themselves – and their arguments – as “for equality” and “for human rights for all”, but stress all the same that they do not support granting LGBTQIA people human rights because any anti-discrimination law will grant LGBTQIA people “special rights”.
This – along with the imposition of religious beliefs – was repeatedly stressed during the August 28 virtual hearing on the SOGIE Equality Bill of the Committee on Women & Gender Equality of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Benny Abante of Manila’s 6th district, for one, stated that “the LGBTI are human beings like all of us… I might not agree with their lifestyle (sic), but I will defend their rights to express themselves.”
But while he stated that “nobody in this country is a second-class citizen,” he reiterated his “refusal to be included as a co-author (of the SOGIE Equality Bill) does not speak of opposition” to it. Instead, it is to uphold what’s in the bible.
Abante also misgendered Rep. Geraldine Roman of Bataan’s First District, referring to the first transgender woman to win a seat in Congress as “congressman” and using the male pronoun “him”. Roman is a co-chair of the Committee on Women & Gender Equality.
Abante’s position was similar to many others who spoke at the virtual hearing.
Stanley Clyde Flores of Jesus is Lord (JIL) religious group stated: “Hindi kami bulag sa katotohanan na maraming miyembro (ng LGBTQIA community) ang nakakaranas ng diskriminasyon.” But JIL does not support the SOGIE Equality Bill because “it rids others of their rights.”
In fact, JIL believes that “God gave gender”, and the fringe religious group believes that members of the LGBTQIA community who want to “welcome God and change their gender” should do so.
JIL’s anti-LGBTQIA position was established by its founder turned politician, Rep. Eddie Villanueva, his position itself a slight on the concept of the separation of Church and State.
Presbyterian Sec. Gen. Nelson Dangan similarly stated the church’s supposed support for non-discrimination. But Dangan stressed that the anti-discrimination bill “supports approval of homosexual behavior”, assaults the truth of Biblical sexuality, does not focus on procreation as human’s key reason for existence, and is “anti-God because God opposes homosexuality.”
Dangan also refuted the existence of intersex people because the word does not exist in his bible.
“Philippines will be like Sodom and Gomorrah if we pass (this bill),” he said, also insinuating that Covid-19 is a wrath of God and that passing a law for the human rights of LGBTQIA people will further anger this God. “We respect all people created by God… but we oppose this bill… because we violate the will of God and invite the wrath of God.”
GOD’S NAME IN VAIN?
Bishop Leo Alconga, the national president of the Philippines For Jesus Movement, similarly stated that they stand “against any form of discrimination”, but that God does not agree with this, quoting an antiquated Catholic perspective that homosexuality is “an act of great depravity”.
Alconga similarly linked the SOGIE Equality Bill with marriage equality, which is not at all part of the bill.
For Bro. Ramon Orosa of Philippines For Jesus Movement, one of the most notorious sins in the scripture is homosexuality and lesbianism. And for him, “the question is not whether they exist, but not giving in to them.” Using the punitive Old Testament God, he said that “God is not tolerant of any sin.”
Orosa also said that “this is being imposed on everybody else” and that “we will be discriminated upon if we disagree.”
For Iglesia ni Cristo’s Edwil Zabala, everyone is entitled to all human rights. But for him, SOGIE is “not a fundamental right” and does not even exist. Like the others, he said that laws should not be made to favor select/special beneficiaries.
HATE FROM GOV’T BODIES?
But church people were not the only parties opposing the SOGIE Equality Bill.
From the side of the government, for instance, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Usec. RJ Echiverri echoed the right-wing religious perspective. After claiming he, too, is against discrimination and the provision of equal opportunity for everybody, he questioned if the proposed law will give special rights to others.
Echiverri also had issues with trans women joining competitions for those assigned female at birth; as well as the “blurring of identities”.
Meanwhile, an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) resource person stated that while AFP – as a government institution – does not discriminate, it also “does not support protection of special groups at the expense of others.”
HATE HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR THE LAW
But other parties also expressed their support for the passage of a law that has been pending in Congress for 20 years now.
Philippine National Police (PNP) head of PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC), Colonel Alessandro Abella, for instance said that they support upholding the rights of all people irrespective of SOGIESC. However, the PNP position that Abella read at the hearing, which is contrary to AFP’s, has yet to be officially vetted by his higher ups.
Still, he said, PNP is lobbying to rename WCPC to “Women, Children and Gender Rights Protection” as it’s more generic and will cover all forms of gender-based violence.
PNP’s recruitment process at present is already SOGIESC-sensitive, focusing on “merit and fitness”, he said, so “PNP supports this.”
Other government officials who also expressed support were Esmeralda Amora-Ladra from Commission on Elections; Sandy Montano of the Philippine Commission on Women; Elizabeth Angsioco of the Department of Social Welfare and Development; and Paul Moreno of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
For Prof. Evelyn “Leo” Batad of UP GLLP, this is a long overdue law that “recognizes the long-standing struggle of people due to their SOGIESC.”
The 1987 Philippine Constitution, in fact, stipulates the value the dignity of all human persons. But the country does not have executory laws for this; and so “a legislation providing for the protection of people with diverse SOGIESC is overdue.”
Batad added that “religion is not meant to support specific beliefs”, and that “morality referred to in law is public and secular, not religious.” The Supreme Court already stated that if the government relies on religious beliefs in the making of laws, then this will require conformity in particular religious programs and the concept of morality of those managing them. This – by itself – becomes an imposition, which violates the very concept of freedom of religious affiliation by making some more dominant than others.
“We cannot impose religious beliefs on others,” Batad said. “Religious belief is distinct from what is spiritual.”
LGBTQIA PEOPLE EXIST
Rep. Roman, for her part, said that “you cannot treat the Bible like a science book.” For instance, the intersex condition is a biological fact; so citing the bible to question the existence of intersex bible is erroneous.
“As St. Agustine said: If you want to convince other people, you cannot ignore empirical data,” she said.
Roman helped push the SOGIE Equality Bill’s passage in 2017, when the bill got the nod of 198 congresspeople, with none opposing it.
“Despite the promise of equality, vulnerable groups are still discriminated,” said Rainbow Rights Project Inc.’s Atty. Jazz Tamayo. “Must we undergo discrimination before we (are able to) access the law? The State needs to (deal with) this.”
For her part, Lagablab Network’s Atty. Claire de Leon said that “discrimination still persists”, with LGBTQIA students refused entry to schools, LGBTQIA people excluded from social support, and the prevalence of workplace discrimination due to people’s SOGIESC, among others. “LGBTQIA people remain vulnerable,” and this ought to push for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill that has been wallowing “for over 20 years now.”