Senate panel: no reason why SBN 1738 should not be approved August 11, 2006Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, lagablab alert!.
- LGBT groups pressed Senate panel to approve SBN 1738
- Sen. Revilla made a commitment to push for the Anti-Gender Discrimination Bill’s enactment
- Sen. Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, said he sees no reason why the bill should not be approved
- ALFI, a Catholic NGO, expressed opposition to the bill’s passage
On August 9, 2006, the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, chaired by Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, held the first public hearing on several anti-discrimination bills pending in the committee, including SBN 165, SBN 1641, and SBN 1738. The anti-discrimination bills were the included in the first agenda of the hearing.
Only Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla attended the hearing to defend SBN 1738.
The resource persons who represented the LGBT community in the hearing included Jonas Bagas, secretary general of LAGABLAB; Ging Cristobal, former Executive Director of Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!); Dax de Castro, LGBT Coordinator of Amnesty International Pilipinas; and Christopher Borja (aka Inday Garutay), a gay impersonator who filed a civil suit against Aruba restaurant.
Cristobal urged the committee to approve the bill immediately and stressed that it would address the discrimination encountered by lesbians. She also presented cases of discrimination commonly encountered by lesbians, such as the refusal of companies to hire lesbians because they only want to accept “females”. (Read LeAP!’s submission on the bill).
For his part, Bagas said that notion that gays and lesbians are already accepted by the Philippine society is untrue. He said that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is common, invisible, and it remains unaddressed. He cited several examples of discrimination confronted by LGBTs, among them the practice of some Catholic schools to impose a masculinity test to weed out gay students. (Download LAGABLAB’s submission).
Dax de Castro of Amnesty International Pilipinas (AIP), a long-time partner organization of LAGABLAB, pointed out several international human rights agreements that affirm the rights of LGBTs, among them the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on Economic and Social Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. “Lesbian and gay rights belong on the human rights agenda because if we tolerate the denial of rights to any marginalized group, we undermine the whole protective framework of human rights by taking away its central plank – the equal rights and dignity of all human beings,” De Castro said. (Download AIP’s submission).
TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective Inc. (TLF Share), a gay men’s NGO and a member organization of LAGABLAB, also submitted a position paper that emphasized that the Anti-Discrimination Bill reduces homophobia, which in turn helps reduce the vulnerability of the gay community against HIV/AIDS.
Inday Garutay narrated the incident in Aruba restaurant. He said that such incidents won’t happen if there is a law penalizing discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. (Read Inday’s submission).
A representative from Alliance for the Family Foundation (ALFI), an NGO backed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, opposed the bill on three grounds: first, the discriminatory practices that the three bills seek to criminalize are already penalized under existing laws. Thus, enacting a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would make the LGBT community a special class. Second, the provision that prohibits discrimination against LGBTs in the issuance of license (Section 4 h) would in effect lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage because it would penalize the State if it refuses to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples. Third, Section 4 k, which penalizes “similar and analogous cases” of discrimination, is too broad. ALFI fears that it will also be used to legalize same-sex marriage. (ALFI raised the same objection during the public hearing for HB 634. Download ALFI’s position paper from their website.).
ALFI also suggested that a stronger language should be used in Section 4 h to explicitly exclude same-sex marriage.
LAGABLAB’s Jonas Bagas informed the Committee that it will later provide a written response to ALFI’s position. He pointed out, however, that the representative from ALFI omitted the last phrase in the provision, which clearly limits the use of the provision only in the provision of certificates allowed by existing laws. He also opposed the inclusion of a phrase that would in effect ban the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
Anne Lim from Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) also spoke during hearing. She said the plight of Filipino lesbians and gays is not laughable. Representatives of other groups from the sector and even employers also manifested their support for the bill. The Commission on Civil Service, represented by Angie Umbac, also supported the enactment of the anti-discrimination measures.
Sen. Revilla committed to push for the bill’s passage. Sen. Estrada, noting that even workers’ organizations and employers alike support SBN 1738, said that he sees no reason why the Committee should not approve the bill. The committee is set to organize another meeting to tackle the bill again.
A few hours before the hearing, a contingent from AKBAYAN’s Gay and Lesbian Collective held a picket in front of the Senate to press for the immediate passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. AKBAYAN Representatives Etta Rosales, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Mayong Aguja filed HB 634, a counterpart bill in the House of Representatives.
Several members of LAGABLAB and other LGBT organizations attended the hearing. The contingent from the LGBT community was comprised of Joel de Mesa (TLF Share), Jojo Gabuya, Jessie Dimaisip and Lori Calo (AKBAYAN) Eva Callueng and Chrisjo Salvatierra (Task Force Pride), Danton Remoto and Danicar Mariano (Ang Ladlad), Joey Ventayen (MCC), Fr. Richard Mickley (OSAe), and Pao Fontanos.