MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of certifying the SOGIE (sexual orientation gender identity and expression) equality bill as urgent after all, Malacañang said on Wednesday, September 11.
In a text to reporters, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said when Duterte said on Tuesday that he would certify such a bill as urgent, he was thinking of an "anti-discrimination bill."
“He was referring to an anti-discrimination bill, not SOGIE bill,” said Panelo.
Senate Bill No. 689 is also known as the anti-discrimination bill.
What Duterte supposedly had in mind was a measure “much like the anti-discrimination ordinance existing in Davao passed when he was still the mayor there.”
Panelo, in na interview with CNN Philippines, said the SOGIE equality bill is problematic because it supposedly “discriminates” since it benefits only LGBTQ+.
“Hindi ka pupuwedeng mag-legislate for a particular class lang, eh nagdi-discriminate ka (You can’t legislate for a particular class only, that would be discrimination),” he said.
An anti-discrimination law, on the other hand, “applies to everyone.”
“He (President Duterte) is a lawyer so he will not certify a bill that will appear to be or is a class legislation,” said Panelo.
The spokesman didn't think the news has caused disappointment among LGBTQ+ persons, insisting the anti-discrimination bill Duterte would support would also protect their rights as well as the SOGIE equality bill would. He was apparently referring to the comprehensive anti-discrimination bill of Senator Juan Edgardo Angara.
"Hindi naman. Bakit naman madi-disappoint sila (No. Why would they be disappointed)? In an anti-discrimination bill, which is in an enlarged version of whatever bill you have in mind, eh di sasama din sila doon (they will also be included there)," said Panelo.
On Tuesday, Duterte was directly asked if he would certify the SOGIE equality bill as urgent.
“Yes, whatever would make the mechanisms of – what would make them happy," he had said in response.
"Gusto ko, kagaya ni Senator (Juan Ponce) Enrile, gusto ko happy siya (Like Senator Enrile, I want them to be happy)," he added.
Before that question, he spoke of how he was opposed to any form of discrimination and had championed an anti-discrimination ordinance in Davao City for equal treatment of Muslims and indigenous peoples.
He also said he supported separate restrooms for lesbians and gays, aside from just the male and female restrooms, in apparent reference to the controversy surrounding the experience of transgender woman Gretchen Diez, who was prevented from using the women's restroom and arrested for documenting the incident.
Duterte had met with Diez in Malacañang in August where, Diez had said, she and the President "discussed my issue of discrimination, and the possible passing of [the] SOGIE bill." (READ: Gretchen Diez meets Duterte, teases 'surprise' for LGBTQ+ community)
Senator Risa Hontiveros, lead author of the SOGIE equality bill, said Malacañang's statements on the proposed measure reflected its "confusion" on addressing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
"President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he plans to certify as urgent the SOGIE equality bill, only to be corrected by his spokesperson that the President was referring to an anti-discrimination Bill, shows Malacañang's policy confusion regarding how to address discrimination against the LGBT community," Hontiveros said.
The senator said the SOGIE equality bill "remains the best policy tool to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination, harassment, and even violence."
"The SOGIE Equality bill does not only define and prohibit discrimination, it also addresses stigma against persons with diverse SOGIE through programs promoting equality and diversity. This protective mechanism is unique to LGBTs who experience not only discrimination but also stigma. We hope that President Duterte will seriously consider these points," she said. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.