Palace backtracks: Duterte won't certify SOGIE bill as urgent

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The Presidential Spokesperson says Duterte wants an anti-discrimination bill that covers everyone, similar to his city ordinance in Davao (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he was open to certifying a bill that would ban all kinds of discrimination, not just on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE), his spokesman clarified.

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said Wednesday the President was not supporting the SOGIE Equality Bill currently pending at the Senate but a law similar to his anti-discrimination ordinance that he signed when he was vice mayor of Davao. The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religious affiliation, or beliefs.

“What he meant was an anti-discrimination law or bill not the SOGIE bill… not that one,” Panelo told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

During an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Duterte was specifically asked about the SOGIE Equality Bill and whether or not he would certify it as urgent. He responded “Yes.”

“He was specifically referring to that anti-discrimination law in Davao…’Yung anti-discrimination law sa Davao, it refers to all. You cannot discriminate on handicaps, special children, third gender,” Panelo clarified.

There are currently two bills filed at the Senate regarding this issue, the SOGIE Equality Bill sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros and an all-encompassing anti-discrimination bill by Senator Sonny Angara.

The SOGIE Equality Bill is currently at the committee level in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The measure passed the House in the 17th Congress but it failed to hurdle the Senate.

Panelo added that Duterte has probably not read the SOGIE Equality Bill yet.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said regardless of what the President meant in his pronouncement, the SOGIE Bill will not pass the Senate.

“Nevertheless, if I am [mistaken], make no mistake, the sogie bill as is will not make it even if the President certifies [the] Hontiveros version. Remember separation of Powers?,” he said.

"Did we pass the death penalty bill certified urgent last congress? Did we pass train 2 certified urgent? You all know the answers," Sotto added.

Duterte had previously shown support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer sector. In August, Duterte met with Gretchen Diez, a trans woman who made rounds on social media, after she was refused entry to the woman’s restroom and subsequently arrested. Diez said the President vowed to lobby for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill before the year ends.

But the LGBTQ+ community has no reason to worry, Panelo assured, since any anti-discrimination law will include their sector.

“That anti-discrimination bill, whoever Senator will be introducing it, they will be included in that. There will be no worry for them,” Panelo said.

“The President will always support this particular class of citizens against any form of discrimination. That's the policy statement,” he added.

However, this development did not sit well with some members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Twenty two-year-old trans woman Rey Valmores-Salinas denounced the Palace’s clarification.

“It’s coming from a position of fear na baka 'yung mga conservative voters namin biglang hindi na kami i-boboto kaya nga during the campaign period, kino-court nila 'yung LGBT community...but when it comes down to it, wala na,” she told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: It’s coming from a place of fear. They are afraid their conservative voters will no longer vote for them. During the campaign period, they courted the LGBT community, but when it comes to it, nothing.]

Salinas is also a member of the LGBTQ+ organization, Bahaghari, which launched a campaign supporting the SOGIE Bill. The group plans to pursue an information drive to educate more people on the need for the SOGIE measure.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.