HAPI takes part in rally for LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Act

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On March 17, 2018, the LGBTQ community congregated at the People Power Monument on the famous Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) to encourage national senators to finally vote in favor of Senate Bill No. 1271 also known as the Anti-Discrimination Act — “an act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) and providing penalties therefor”. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate as political observers believe some senators engage in constant dilly-dallying tactics to prevent voting on the bill.

Hundreds turned up at the rally formed by Metro Manila Pride, UP Babaylan, and the Lagablab Network of around 25 LGBTQ organizations. Representing the LGBTQ & Straight Alliance arm of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) at the event are CFO Edwin Bulaclac, Jr. and National Events Officer-in-Charge McJarwin Cayacap of the Metro Manila Chapter.

Other than to raise awareness of how important the bill is to the LGBTQ community, organizers also wanted the rally to make people aware of the violence, discrimination, sexism and lost opportunities for members of the community in the past decades. As per human rights watch organizations, the Philippines has one of the worst records of violence against the LGBTQ community. Since 2008, there have been at least 28 recorded murders of transgenders. To call for action, the rally featured videos of bitter and sweet life stories on a huge screen to inspire the present generation to continue the fight for genderless and absolute equality.

 

DELAYING TACTICS

The bill was filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros on December 7, 2016 during the first regular session by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality in the 17th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. Legislative status of the bill is listed as “Pending Second Reading, Special Order (12/14/2016)” in the official website of the Philippine Senate as of this writing. Meaning, the bill is still up for interpellation in the plenary.

Meanwhile, its counterpart in the House of Representatives — House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill — was already passed on September 20, 2017, the first time a bill of such nature went far in 11 years. The bill was passed after only over a year with 197 congresspeople giving it the nod and none opposing it. It was also sponsored by Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, the first openly transgender woman elected to Congress.

A similar bill was first filed by Akbayan Partylist Representative Etta Rosales in the 11th Congress. That version of the bill was approved in the 12th Congress but failed to go farther than third and final reading. It was again in 2006, during the 13th Congress, when the bill reached second reading. Without development now in the Senate, Senate Bill No. 1271 seems bound to tread the path taken by that bill from almost 20 years ago.

 

MISTAKEN NOTIONS

Unfortunately, people mistake the Anti-Discrimination Act with legislating marriage equality in the Philippines. In fact, the bill only eyes to keep discrimination from happening to all Filipino citizens irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, including heterosexual people who should also not experience discrimination because of being straight.

Section 5 of Senate Bill No. 1271 declares that it shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to:

  1. promote and encourage stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media, in educational textbooks, and other medium. Inciting violence and sexual abuse against any person or group on the basis of SOGIE is likewise prohibited;
  2. include SOGIE, as well as the disclosure of sexual orientation, in the criteria for hiring, promotion, transfer, designation, work assignment, reassignment, dismissal of workers, and other human resource movement and action, performance review and in the determination of employee compensation, career development opportunities, training, and other learning and development interventions, incentives, privileges, benefits or allowances, and other terms and conditions of employment;
  3. refuse admission or expel a person from any educational or training institution on the basis of SOGIE;
  4. impose disciplinary sanctions, penalties harsher than customary or similar punishments, requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions that infringe on the rights of the students on the basis of SOGIE, including discriminating against a student or trainee due to the SOGIE of the student’s parents or legal guardian;
  5. refuse or revoke the accreditation, formal recognition, registration or plan to organize of any organization, group, political party, institution or establishment, in educational institutions, workplaces, communities, and other settings, solely on the basis of the SOGIE of their members or of their target constituencies

To learn about the rest of the unlawful acts declared by the bill, a full copy can be viewed online and downloaded from here: https://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2517921693!.pdf

 

LGBTQ+ COMMISSION

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had said during a special gathering in Davao City in December 2017 that he is willing to accept members of the LGBTQ community to become part of his administration as long as they are honest, hardworking and qualified. Also, he encouraged the community to nominate a representative to the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) as he wants more representation of the community in sectoral and national governance.

 

CHRISTIAN OPPOSITION

Ironically, Christian groups led by Christian Coalition for Righteousness Justice and Truth (CCRJT) gathered over a month earlier at the People Power Monument to protest the SOGIE Equality Bill of the House of Representatives, and the Anti-Discrimination Act of the Senate.

Flyers were handed out, questioning the existence of discrimination in a “widespread, systemic scale”. CCRJT asked, “If there are incidences of discrimination, is the LGBT community not covered by our existing laws? If this bill does get passed, will it not be discriminating to non-LGBT sectors?”

The group claimed they are aware that “the real intent of the SOGIE bill is to redefine and add to the original meaning of sex and gender” and that passage of the bill will “open the door for the institution of same-sex union/marriage in the Philippines.”

 

AMSTERDAM DECLARATION

HAPI is one with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in adopting the official defining statement of modern humanism, the Amsterdam Declaration of 2002. Its third fundamental principle reads: “Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.”

More than a non-profit organization, HAPI is a true alliance of LGBTQ and straight volunteers. Proof of respect for equality are our Board of Trustees and appointed officers who have been working hand in hand in spite of diversities. The Metro Manila Chapter even looks forward to seeing more members of the community at future outreach and education programs.

It is in engaging diverse groups toward one goal that we see what is common than different. It is also in understanding that we accept than condemn. Humanism carries on the Filipino value of bringing everyone into one, strong and happy family through activism, service and example.

 

 

The Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

McJarwin Cayacap

  • HAPI Metro Manila Member
  • Web Content Editor
  • National Events Officer-in-Charge

Currently in between careers, he busies himself with anything that works for the good of humanity. Other than being a humanist, he is a realist, an art aficionado, a frugal foodie and a weary wanderer. He looks forward to working in the central government soon.