A pastor-turned-congressman stood his ground Thursday against the mention of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression – also known as SOGIE – in the proposed Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill.

1 6 - Solon stands ground vs SOGIE in anti-discrimination bill

Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Domingo Rivera said during a technical working group (TWG) meeting of the Committee on Human Rights that he feels the concepts of SOGIE – which basically stands for the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community – is already represented in the bill under the default terms “sex” and “gender.”

“Naniniwala po kami No. 1, sa salitang sex, sa salitang gender, nakapaloob na po ang lahat nang uri ng orientations. Wala pong orientation na hindi nakapaloob sa dalawang salita na ito (We believe that No. 1, all kinds of orientations are included in the words sex and gender. There is no orientation that isn’t covered by these two words),” said Rivera, who is affiliated with the Jesus is Lord Church.

At that time, TWG members were debating whether or not to include SOGIE in the long title of the measure, thereby making it a ground for discrimination. That detail alone would take two hours to resolve, showing just how contentious the subject is to legislators.

The virtual meeting actually began with a fiery diatribe from Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman after the transgender solon learned that the SOGIE provisions she had espoused were dropped from the working draft for the bill. Roman is one of at least 10 authors behind the measure.

“Nowhere in the last meeting was it agreed upon to do so. Nahihiya po ako…sa (I feel shame on the) concerted and consistent effort to ignore people – yes, male and female – but with different SOGIE. Nahihiya rin po ako at nasaksaktan as your colleague (I feel shame and pain as your colleague)…We cannot legislate this based on personal religious belief,” she said, without referring to anybody in particular.

“Kung hindi niyo kayang kilalanin na may mga taong may diverse SOGIE, na kinikilala naman ng mga napakaraming eksperto at hindi lang nung mga nagmamarunong dyan, ay huwag na lang nating tong tawaging ‘comprehensive’ (If you can’t recognize that there are people with diverse SOGIE, as what many experts and not just pretenders have done, then let’s not call the bill ‘comprehensive’)…let’s just call it a ‘selective anti-discrimination bill,’” Roman sarcastically said.

Rivera went on to back his argument by citing numbers, particularly those provided by the Christian Coalition on Righteousness, Justice, and Truth. He said the group is composed of over 120,000 faith groups and churches and over 13.2 million believers.

Reading a letter of the coalition, Rivera said that including SOGIE in the bill “would offer an overwhelming protection to members of the LGBT community, reportedly with around 330,000 members, but no protection to the overwhelming strength of the non-LGBT community – the rest of the 110 million Filipinos in the exercise of their basic human rights.”

“It stands contrast to the relief of the 83 percent of the Filipino people who according to the April 2020 survey of Social Weather Stations believe that  religion is very, very important to their way of life. Let us remember, the Bible plainly says that homosexuality is not the will of God,” he added.

Roman said the 330,000 figure is “highly questionable” since she has “4,000 registered” in her district alone.

In the end, the TWG panel allowed the inclusion of SOGIE in the working draft mostly due to the concurrence of two other pastors in the meeting – Manila Rep. Benny Abante and his brother, Dr. Reuben Abante, of the Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church. Dr. Abante took part in the proceedings as a resource person.

“To me, I would in a way be amenable to include even the gender identity (in the anti-discrimination bill). That would make the SOGIE bill moot and academic. Para hindi na tayo gumawa ng (So that we would no longer have to make a) special bill for a special group of people,” Rep. Abante said.

The former House Minority Leader was referring to a separate bill under the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, which he has negatively described as “class legislation.”

Also favoring the inclusion of SOGIE as a ground for discrimination is Dr. Abante, on the condition that “religious expression” would also be explicitly mentioned in the subject bill.

“Para po sa akin, ilagay na lang natin yung (SOGIE). Pero igalang din po natin ang religious orientation namin (For me, let’s just include SOGIE. But our religious orientation must also be respected). We need to co-exist in this country,” he said.

Rivera raised his objection on SOGIE inclusion but he was merely noted by the TWG chairman. 

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