‘I cringe!’: Roman hits initial removal of SOGIE in proposed anti-discrimination bill

By: Neil Arwin Mercado - Reporter / @NAMercadoINQ - Inquirer.net | November 19,2020 - 04:06 PM

MANILA, Philippines — Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman did not mince words as she expressed her disappointment over the initial removal of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) in the draft substitute bill of an anti-discrimination measure.

During the technical working group meeting of the House committee on human rights, it was seen that SOGIE was removed in the working title of the draft substitute bill on the proposed Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill.

This did not sit well with Roman who is the first transgender woman to be elected in Congress.

“Nowhere in the last meeting was it agreed upon to do so. I reviewed the video recording of our meeting last time, and I cringe really,” Roman said.

“While watching the video, I cringe at the inconsistencies and the argumentation of the opponents of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. I really feel shamed because of the blatant disregard of the testimonies of human rights experts including the [Commission on Human Rights] as to the importance of SOGIE,” she added.

Roman said she was “hurt” as a colleague since it seems that “some people would like to live in La La Land and ignore the fact that there are Filipinos who are LGBTs and that there are cases of discrimination that need to be addressed.”

“I also squirm with disbelief at the attempt of some of us here to sell this landmark bill as a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill but at the same time, we are just picking and choosing which sectors of society to protect,” Roman said.

According to Roman, in order for an anti-discrimination bill to be effective, the grounds on which acts of discrimination would be committed should be clearly defined and established.

“Ito na lang ang suggestion ko. Kung hindi nyo kayang kilalanin na mayroong mga tao na may diverse SOGIE na kinikilala naman ng napakaraming eksperto, hindi lamang ‘yang mga nagmamarunong-marunungan diyan, eh wag na lang natin tawagin tong Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill,” Roman said.

“Let’s just call it a Selective Anti-Discrimination Bill, we cannot claim it is comprehensive,” she added.

Roman likewise hit back at critics who are saying that the LGBT community is trying to establish itself as a “special class.” The lawmaker said such critics are raising such points despite other sectors also having special laws such as women, indigenous peoples, and senior citizens, among others.

“But pagdating sa LGBT, ‘No! You are trying to create yourself as a special class seeking special protection’… You are telling me, ‘Yes, we will protect women, yes, we will protect those with HIV but no to LGBT!’,” Roman said.

Further, lawmakers should not take into consideration their personal religious beliefs.

SOGIE bill on the table

Quezon City Representative Jesus “Bong” Suntay, who chairs the TWG, explained that the decision to remove SOGIE in the working draft of the bill was based on the position papers submitted to their committee as well as the manifestations made in the previous meetings regarding the matter.

“The bill must attain its nature as an inclusive piece of proposed legislation and not a divisive one. It does not cater solely for the LGBTQ+ community, it also intends to address the concerns of the other sectors of society including the religious groups,” Suntay said.

“What we want to achieve in this Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill is a bill which will cover all aspects but not become too specific on individual rights,” he added.

Suntay pointed out that there is also a SOGIE Anti-Discrimination Bill that is pending before the House committee on women and gender equality.

“Sana maintindihan nating lahat na if we want to go into specifics, there are also other bills that have been filed which tackle more specific legislation and rights to be protected,” Suntay said.

Meanwhile, Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr., a known religious lawmaker, said he is “amenable” to the inclusion of SOGIE in the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill which would deem the SOGIE Bill in the other House committee moot and academic.

“To me, I would, in a way, be amenable to include even the gender identity and expression for example so that the SOGIE Bill, which I deem to be a class legislation, would be moot and academic and that would not anymore be needed,” Abante said.

“Ibig sabihin, itong Anti-Discrimination Bill na ito, let’s really make this encompassing including all sectors of society where there is discrimination para hindi na tayo gumawa ng special bills for a special group of people,” he added.

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