Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva has been accused of delaying plenary debates on the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill and mobilizing religious leaders to oppose the measure.
LAGABLAB, a network of Filipino LGBTQ+ organizations and allies, tweeted its alarm over a message purportedly sent by Villanueva’s office to church leaders—most especially those belonging to the evangelical Christian denomination—urging them to register their opposition to the SOGIE Equality Bill.
Part of the message allegedly sent by Villanueva’s office read: “We are asking po individual letters po, kahit email letter lang. It can be as simple as: ‘Sa aming minamahal na senators, nais ko pong ipahayag ang pagtutol ko sa pagsasabatas ng SOGIE bill.’”
LAGABLAB expressed concern about the alleged tactics used to delay deliberations on the SOGIE Equality Bill. It noted that the measure remained in the Senate plenary in the previous 18th Congress, and languished for two years in the 17th Congress.
“47 days since the SOGIE Equality Bill committee report was passed, it has yet to be scheduled for sponsorship to the Senate floor. Lagablab urges the Senate leadership to include SOGIE Equality Bill in the agenda. Do not delay equality,” the group tweeted.
Akbayan party-list nominee Perci Cendaña said Villanueva should allow debates to take place on the bill.
“We humbly appeal to the office of Sen. Villanueva, as majority floor leader, please allow the legislative process to take its course. Please allow the plenary dliberation on the #SOGIE Equality Bill. The suffering of the victims of stigma and discrimination must end. Please,” he tweeted.
Singer Ice Seguerra urged his followers to contact senators through social media to drum up support for the bill.
“I-tweet at i-email ang mga Senador na full support tayo sa SOGIE Equality Bill na i-debate na sa plenaryo. Magpost sa lahat ng social media (Tiktok, FB, at IG) at i-tag ang mga accounts ng mga Senador at mga kaalyado, lalung-lalo na sila Senate PResident Migz Zubiri at Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva,” he said in the caption of an Instagram post.
“Ang pagbabalik sa committee ng SOGIE Equality Bill para maging parte ng iba pang bill o komite ay paglusaw at pagdelay nito,” Seguerra added.
Villanueva’s family leads Jesus Is Lord Church, an evangelical Christian movement. He wasn’t among the senators cited by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in December 2022 for recommending the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill.