House approves SOGIE Equality Bill on final reading

By , on September 21, 2017

Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao, the current bill’s primary author, said that the fight for equality is a fight for every Filipino. (Photo: Kaka Bag-ao/Facebook)
Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao, the current bill’s primary author, said that the fight for equality is a fight for every Filipino. (Photo: Kaka Bag-ao/Facebook)

The bill that would forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGIE) was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

With 198 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and no abstentions, the House passed House Bill 4982 or SOGIE Equality Bill during plenary session. Lawmakers voted unanimously to approve the measure on its third and final reading.

Under the bill, individual who discriminates a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) can be penalized of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, based on the court’s decision.

The bill, otherwise known as “SOGIE Equality Act” penalizes the following discriminatory practices: denying access to public services; including SOGIE as a criteria for hiring or dismissal of workers; refusing admission or expelling students in schools based on SOGIE; imposing disciplinary actions that are harsher than customary due to the student’s SOGIE; refusing or revoking accreditation of organizations based in the SOGIE of members; denying access to health services; denying application for professional licenses and similar documents; denying access to establishments, facilities, and services open to the general public; forcing a person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to determine or alter one’s SOGIE; harassment committed by persons involved in law enforcement.

Publishing information intended to “out” or reveal the SOGIE of a person without consent; engaging in public speech which intends to shame or ridicule LGBTQ persons; and subjecting persons to harassment motivated by the offenders’ bias against the offended party’s SOGIE, which may come in the form of any medium, including telecommunications and social media can also be penalized under this bill.

The measure also includes subjecting any person to gender profiling, and preventing a child under parental authority from expressing one’s SOGIE by inflicting or threatening to inflict bodily or physical harm or by causing mental or emotional suffering.

Aside from the P100,000-P500,00 fine and one to six years imprisonment, the court may also penalize the person who committed any discriminatory act with community service.

Meanwhile, a rainbow flag was waved by Transgender lawmaker Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman along with other lawmakers before the third reading of the bill.

Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao, the current bill’s primary author, said that the fight for equality is a fight for every Filipino.

Sa laban pong ito, ang puhunan po natin ay pagmamahal sa ating kapwa at pag-asa para sa isang lipunang mas makatarungan, mas bukas, at mas pantay [This fight is rooted from the love for other people, and faith for a more just, more open and more equal society], she said.

Bag-ao previously said that the bill aims to only protect the basic rights of citizens and would not add special rights to members of the LGBT community. She is also delighted that the measure was passed on her last term as congresswoman. Bag-ao then thanked House members from the 15th to the 17th Congress who joined their campaign to pass the bill.

On the other hand, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate emphasized the importance of the bill to end discrimination practices or acts against the LGBT community. Zarate added that it is timely following the killing of transgender Jennifer Laude, and the discrimination which was experienced by Bunny Cadag.

“Kaya naman, mahigpit ang pangangailangan na magkaroon ng batas na kikilala sa karapatan ng mga LGBT at magpaparusa sa mga lalabag rito. Ito ay hindi paggawa ng espesyal o karagdagang karapatan: ito ay pagkilala na mayroong pantay na karapatan ang mga LGBT tulad ng iba pang mamamayan [That’s why there is a great need to have a law which will recognize the rights of the LGBT and will penalize those who will go against it. This is not to create special or additional rights: this is to recognize that the LGBT community shares equal rights with other citizens]. he said.

As he ended his speech, Zarate even used “beki” or gay language and shouted: “Makibeki, wag ma-shokot!”

The bill was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Representatibe Etta Rosales; it was originally known as the anti-discrimination bill. The Senate, on the other hand, has yet to approve its own version of the measure for second reading approval.