Villanueva: SOGIE Bill ‘not the right’ anti-discrimination measure

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — A senator is keeping his stance against the bill that shields people from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) amid a renewed call for its passage after a transgender woman ended up in handcuffs for trying to use the women’s bathroom in a Quezon City mall.

Senator Joel Villanueva agreed that the incident involving 28-year-old Gretchen Diez should prompt the enactment of an anti-discrimination law, but added that this measure should be “encompassing.”

READ: QC Mayor: Mall clearly violated city's LGBTQ+ ordinance with discrimination of transgender woman

“The law should be equal, lahat pantay-pantay [everyone should be equal.] You cannot give a special treatment for a particular law at the expense of another sector,” Villanueva told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday.

‘Yung [The] SOGIE [Equality Bill] that we were discussing and deliberating in the last Congress, I feel that it is not the right bill that we should be passing,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said some senators prefer to pass a bill banning discrimination against several sectors, instead of a proposed law that solely bars discriminaton against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

"It can be a happy compromise kasi SOGIE nandoon din. Marami ako kasamahan or a few of them nagsasabi bakit sila lang mayroon, bakit 'yung mga kapatid nating Muslim wala. Bakit iba't-ibang grupo ng political views wala," Zubiri told reporters.

[Translation: It can be a happy compromise because SOGIE is there too. I have a lot of colleagues, or a few of them, who are asking why they're the only ones who have that, why don't our Muslim brothers have that too? Why don't different political groups don't have that too?]

Villanueva, the son of Jesus is Lord Church founder Eddie Villanueva, staunchly opposed the SOGIE Equality Bill in the 17th Congress, joining Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III in repeatedly interpellating the bill, effectively blocking it from being passed.

The elder Villanueva is now a Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives, where the measure has also been refiled.

Senator Villanueva worries that the proposed law could step on academic and religious freedom, alleging that it can penalize pastors for preaching about certain Bible verses in their respective churches. The Bible contains several passages condemning homosexuality.

SOGIE Equality Bill advocates have repeatedly allayed fears that this would result in the infringement of academic and religious rights.

Jesus is Lord Church, in a 2015 statement on same-sex marriage, said it is in favor of promoting the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people “but only insofar as the moral laws and standards of God.”

“We stand with the LGBTs in their fight for freedom and equality—that is, in all areas except those where our faith and ultimate commitment to God are to be compromised,” it said.

Among the actions that the proposal seeks to ban are the promotion and encouragement of stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media, educational textbooks and other mediums and forcing people to undergo medical and psychological examinations to determine or alter their SOGIE without their consent.

The penalties for violating the proposed law range from a fine of at least ₱150,000 to ₱500,000 and imprisonment of at least one year to up to 12 years.

Curiously, Villanueva asked to be a co-author of this bill, which was first filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in the 17th Congress.

Hontiveros has refiled the same measure in the 18th Congress. Senators Grace Poe, Imee Marcos and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan have also filed their own versions of the proposed law.

“The lack of protective laws and supportive policies is an unfortunate reality. This neglect is affording impunity from committing discrimination and tolerating human rights abuse,” Hontiveros said in refiling the SOGIE Equality Bill.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara filed a “comprehensive” anti-discrimination proposal, which seeks to penalize SOGIE-based discrimination, along with discrimination on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, religion, political inclination, social class, marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status, medical history, language and physical features.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.