‘It’s already 2022:’ Senate panel approves SOGIESC equality bill
Sen. Risa Hontiveros issued the statement on Tuesday after two Senate committees filed a report on Senate Bill No. 1600 — the proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Act.
The report was filed by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality and the Committee on Finance.
The bill enjoins the government to address discrimination and violence based on people’s SOGIESC.
“The swiftness with which the committee report was signed and filed is surely a sign of good things to come. I am hoping that this would push the bill toward continuous progress so we can show and make the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community feel that the Senate is their ally,” Hontiveros said, speaking in a mix of English and Filipino.
“The SOGIESC bill’s message is clear: Our country should not tolerate any act of discrimination,” Hontiveros stressed. “We are denying the lives and livelihood of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community simply because of beliefs and traditions that need to be corrected. It’s already 2022, our laws should reflect the realities of our culture.”
Hontiveros said 19 senators, including herself, expressed “strong and immediate support to move the bill forward.”
“In a day, we convinced them to sign the committee report. I was more encouraged that in this Congress, the SOGIE bill will be finally passed,” she said.
The five remaining senators either signed the committee report with reservations or said they would interpellate on the matter, according to Hontiveros.
A deeper look into the proposed SOGIESC Equality Act
Among the discriminatory practices deemed unlawful under the proposed SOGIESC Equality Act are the following:
- Including SOGIESC, as well as the mandatory disclosure of their SOGIESC, in the criteria or standards set by employers or contractors
- Refusing admission or expelling a person from any educational or training institution open to the public on the basis of their SOGIESC
- Imposing disciplinary sanctions, penalties harsher than customary on the basis of the SOGIESC of students and their parents or guardians
- Refusing or revoking accreditation, formal recognition, registration, or plan to organize anybody or establishment on the basis of the SOGIESC of their members or target constituents
- Subjecting person deprived of liberty to extortion, physical, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse, and cruel and degrading punishment due to their SOGIESC
- Subjecting or forcing children to undertake medical or psychological examination or procedures to determine and/or alter their SOGIESC
- Preventing or manifesting rejection of children exhibiting or expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Denying access to public services to anyone on the basis of their SOGIESC
- Denying application for or revoking a professional of any government-issued document due to their SOGIESC
- Denying person access to or use of publicly open facilities or services on the basis of their SOGIESC
- Subjecting any person or group to unwarranted investigatory activities on the basis of their SOGIESC or presumptions about their SOGIESC
- Denying individuals access to emergency and/or necessary health services open to public on the basis of their SOGIESC
“One of the most important purposes of the SOGIESC is ensuring that every Filipino, no matter what gender, will receive the necessary medical services when needed,” Hontiveros said.
She cited stories shared by members of the LGBTQIA+ community about how they were denied medical services based on their SOGIESC.
“This is flat-out discrimination,” the senator pointed out.
If passed into law, violators of the SOGIESC Equality Act would be penalized with a fine ranging from P5,000 to P300,000, or imprisonment of up to over six years, depending on the offense.
For offending corporations, trusts, firms, partnerships, associations, or other entities, the penalty is a fine of not less than P250,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than six years but not more than twelve years.
The bill also states that should a civil, criminal, or administrative offense that does not fall under the sought law be committed and be found driven by bias, prejudice, or hate due to a person’s SOGIESC, the “offense shall be aggravated and the corresponding penalty provided thereto shall be imposed in its maximum.”
Under the bill, the government will also be required to implement social protection programs, diversity and inclusion programs and training sessions, and information and education campaigns.
Makabayan bloc lawmakers in the House of Representatives have filed a similar bill prohibiting discrimination based on one’s SOGIESC.
In the explanatory note of House Bill No. 5551, the bloc said the proposed measure aims to “ensure that all people, regardless of their SOGIESC, can exercise their rights to life, education, employment, and expression without fear of reprisal or discrimination.”
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, however, earlier said the Philippines is bucking the United Nations Human Rights Council’s call for the passage of pro-LGBTQIA+ laws such as the SOGIESC bill, arguing that the country is culturally not ready for such a measure.
The national government has since been urged by the Commission on Human Rights to “keep an open mind” and reconsider its opposition to the recommendation for the Philippines to pass laws safeguarding the LGBTQIA+ community.