Abante scolds UP gender program lawyer: Don’t talk about Sogie
MANILA, Philippines —Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. told a University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law legislative officer to keep their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (Sogie) issues to themselves during a Tuesday hearing, claiming the officer can’t speak for the state university on these issues.
Hendrix Bongalon, a lawyer from the UP College of Law’s Gender Law and Policy Program (UP-GLPP), presented the office’s position paper on the proposed Anti-Discrimination bill during the House Committee on human rights hearing.
At the beginning of the speech, Abante — chairperson of the committee — asked Bongalon if the latter was representing UP, to which the lawyer said he is “speaking in behalf of UP-GLPP.”
Bongalon pointed out that the country does not have Sogie Equality laws, to which Abante responded that UP should not be exclusive to one group in society.
“You are not representing the LGBTQ, you are representing UP […] therefore you speak and tell us about your representing UP, not a certain group,” Abante told Bongalon. “You are a government official, am I right? Therefore if you are representing UP, you speak of education.”
“What actually pissed me off is when you represent UP, and you speak on a certain right of a certain individual. That should not be, the measure is an encompassing right of all, therefore you speak of all, that’s my request, we’re not talking of another bill here of special rights. So don’t be a smart aleck to me,” he added.
According to Abante, the House panel is trying to create a comprehensive bill that would cater not only to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, but to all people who may be victims of discrimination.
The LGBTQIA+ has been a staunch supporter of the Sogie Equality bill, although they have insisted that the bill does not only protect them but other sexual orientations and activities within legal means.
READ: Terrible misconceptions: Why we need the Sogie Equality Bill
“If your position paper will only speak on a certain right of any group, any group, then that is not supposed to be the case here,[…] I mean, I’m hoping that you’re going to speak on press freedom, you’re going to speak on student freedom, freedom in the university, that is what you should speak of,” Abante claimed.
“But if you’re only referring to one group, you’re not referring to an encompassing, comprehensive anti-discrimination bill. You see, I’m not stupid here,” he added.
Bongalon tried to explain that he was just trying to read out the position paper of the UP-GLPP.
“I defer your Honor to this chairperson’s observations, and your Honor, if I may just— personally your Honor — say that I really admire and really fully respect you your Honor and the members of this committee […] but your Honor, this is a position paper signed by the program director,” the lawyer noted.
However, Abante and Cibac party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva — both Christian preachers — have maintained that Bongalon should not speak as if he represents UP ideals.
Abante and Villanueva noted that members of their family are part of the UP community, but they do not share the views of Bongalon’s office.
“It appears before the public it could be representing the entire UP community. So this could be misleading […] so just a reminder to all concerned that we should be cautious in committing a mistake of representing the entire institution — because members of our family are members of the UP community,” Villanueva, founder of the Jesus is Lord Church, said.
“But to be accused of succumbing to the template of western lawyers proposing a certain preferential right of a certain group, that is absolutely unfair to the members of the UP community,” he added.
Two other lawmakers in Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman meanwhile defended Bongalon, saying that it was clear that he was reading the position of UP-GLPP.
Both Manuel and Lagman noted that it is impossible to speak for UP on these issues as it is composed of complex and diverse members.
“Mr. Chair, I think it was clear who our resource person was representing, I think it is clear with me that he is not representing the UP community especially since we have a diversity of views even in an institution na of course, stands as our national state university,” Manuel said.
“With respect to Attorney Bongalon, I would like to submit that from the very start, he said that he was going to read the position paper of the UP Gender Law and (Policy) Program, signed by Professor Leo Battad. He did not misrepresent that he was going to speak for the entire UP community which is a complex community,” Lagman added.
Tensions have been high in the said committee as religious groups invited as resource persons and LGBTQIA+ rights advocates clashed on their beliefs, with the former saying that an anti-discrimination bill is not needed anymore.
Abante however assured Reyna Valmores, chairperson of the progressive LGBT group Bahaghari, that the community would be protected despite his differences with them.
The committee is hearing four similar anti-discrimination bills, including House Bill No. 188 authored by Abante. No consensus has been reached as to the status of the four bills, with Abante stressing the need for more hearings.
READ: In House hearing on Anti-Discrimination bill, Bible verses fly to counter proposal
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