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Senate panel OKs SOGIESC Equality Bill

by Jericho Zafra

THE Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Bill has gained progress in the Senate. 

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality approved the measure, and 19 Senators signed the panel’s report endorsing it to the plenary for further discussions, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros. 

Committee Report No. 15 consolidates several SOGIESC bills into one, which will be Senate Bill 1600. The proposed law seeks to mandate the state to counter all forms of discrimination and violence based on SOGIESC.

“Our country should not tolerate any act of discrimination. Buhay at hanapbuhay ang ipinagkakait natin sa mga miyembro ng LGBTQIA+ nang dahil lang sa mga paniniwala at tradisyong kailangang iwasto. 2022 na, our laws should reflect the realities of our culture,” said Hontiveros in a Facebook post.

Hontiveros, the committee chair, said “the swiftness with which the committee report was signed and filed is surely a sign of good things to come.”

The senator also said she hopes this will carry the bill forward, so she can show the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community that the Senate is their supporter. 

The following senators, including Hontiveros, have signed the report and showcased “strong and immediate support to move the bill forward:”

  • Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel 
  • Sen. Sonny Angara 
  • Sen. Imee Marcos 
  • Sen. Cynthia Villar 
  • Sen. Nancy Binay 
  • Sen. Bato dela Rosa 
  • Sen. Grace Poe 
  • Sen. Mark Villar 
  • Sen. Francis Tolentino 
  • Sen. JV Ejercito 
  • Sen. Robinhood Padilla 
  • Sen. Raffy Tulfo 
  • Sen. Jinggoy Estrada 
  • Sen. Lito Lapid 
  • Sen. Chiz Escudero 
  • Sen. Loren Legarda 
  • Sen. Bong Go 
  • Sen. Bong Revilla

According to Hontiveros, five of the senators signed the committee report with reservations or said they would interpellate on the matter.

The bill will still have to hurdle the Senate plenary before it could be approved on second and third reading. 

The SOGIESC bill seeks to forbid discriminatory policies such as refusing admission to or expelling people from a school or training institution, denying them access to public services, imposing disciplinary actions, or rejecting their membership to any organization solely because of their SOGIESC.

The bill likewise aims to protect those people and groups who are more likely to be subjected to human rights violations because of their SOGIESC, such as those who are children, youths, the poor, individuals with disabilities, people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, and people who practice other religions.

The proposed law also aims to penalize those who refuse to give anyone access to emergency or urgent medical care available to the public because of the person’s SOGIESC.

A fine of up to P250,000 or a one to six-year prison term may be imposed on anyone who violates the proposed law.

In 2019, former Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto said the SOGIE equality bill has no chance of passing the Senate even if then-President Rodrigo Duterte certifies the proposed measure as urgent.

In late November, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla rejected the call from the United Nations to legalize same-sex marriage, divorce, and the SOGIE Equality bill during the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva because they are “not acceptable” in the Philippines.

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