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SOGIE equality bill? Not in this Congress, says Sotto

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By: Xave Gregorio

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto said the bill seeking to penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) equality bill has a slim chance of passing in the present Congress.

Asked by reporters in an interview on Wednesday (March 7) if the Senate could pass the bill on third and final reading before the 16th Congress ends on June 30, 2019, Sotto said, “Hindi.”

Sotto, a staunch opponent of the measure, said the Senate version of the measure filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in September 2016 is not yet being calendared for deliberations in plenary as interpellators are “not yet ready.”

He shares the view of Christian groups who oppose the SOGIE Equality Bill: That it would pave the way for same sex marriage to be legalized in the Philippines.

“Parang ganun na ‘yun, parang naka-smuggle na ‘yun doon. Dahil ‘yung mga grupo na nasa likod niyan, ‘yung international groups … ganun ang gusto nilang makapasok sa Asya lalo na sa Pilipinas,” Sotto said.

Bro. Eddie Villanueva, one of the convenors of the Christian Coalition for Righteousness, Justice and Truth (CCRJT), which marched to the Senate in protest of the bill, warned that the measure contained three provisions which would allow for same sex marriage in the country.

“If you read the SOGIE, the implied law is allowing multi-genders and therefore there is no need for another law for the marriage of same sex,” Villanueva said. “And same sex is clearly an abomination to God.”

However, Sotto and Villanueva failed to specify which portions of the bill would allow same sex marriage.

Hontiveros maintains that there is no provision in the law which would allow same sex marriage. “Kahit pwedeng daanan ng fine-toothed comb ‘yung buong text ng bill, wala talang on same sex marriage,” she said.

She underscored the need for the bill to be finally passed into law as cases of discrimination against lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBTs) are still rampant.

The SOGIE Bill has been languishing in Congress for nearly two decades, and has only been passed on third and final reading in the lower house in the 11th Congress and in the present Congress last September 2017.

The bill seeks to protect individuals against sex and gender-based discrimination, which include denial of access to public services, health services and access to public establishments, using SOGIE as a basis for hiring or dismissal of workers, and refusing to admit or expelling students on the basis of their SOGIE.

It also seeks to impose a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 and a jail term between one to six years for those found guilty of discriminating on the basis of SOGIE.

However, Brother Eddie’s son, Senator Joel Villanueva, said a “genuine” anti-discrimination law protecting religious freedom and not just barring discrimination against LGBT is needed.

“We just want to make sure that the bill does not cause harm to our rights to exercise our own beliefs without compromising the rights of others,” Villanueva said in a statement.

But Hontiveros said the current SOGIE Equality Bill pending in the Senate already contain five provisions ensuring religious freedom.