Eddie Villanueva claims SOGIE bill 'threatens' freedoms of non-LGBTQ+

MANILA, Philippines – Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church founder turned party-list lawmaker Brother Eddie Villanueva is strongly opposing the bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE).

In a privilege speech on Wednesday, August 28, the Citizens' Battle Against Corruption representative claimed that the SOGIE equality bill would "undermine" the role of parents, "threaten" academic freedom, "imperil" freedom of speech and religion, and "puts into question the very foundation of our laws."

Villanueva said that out of the 13 versions of the SOGIE equality bill in the House, 10 would require parents to secure a family court order should they want their children to undergo any medical or psychological examination in matters related to SOGIE.

"Since when has it become our official policy to give the government authority to decide for our children's lives, especially on an issue as sensitive as their identity?" asked Villanueva.

He also zeroed in on the provision that would penalize public speeches meant to shame or insult the LGBTQ+ community. Religious speeches would be exempt from penalties, but the JIL founder said there is a loophole in the bill.

"What happens to a Christian like me, and to the majority of the people in this chamber, if we are to be threatened by punishment every time we share our Bible-based beliefs on matters of transgenders and homosexuals?" asked Villanueva.

"Mr Speaker, we respect the lives they choose to live, but to make us conform to their lifestyle with the threat of punishment under our necks if we do not is, in itself, a violation of our own rights," he added.

'Special rights'?

Passing the SOGIE equality bill, Villanueva claimed, would be tantamount to giving "special rights" to the LGBTQ+ community. (READ: TIMELINE: SOGIE equality in the Philippines)

Villanueva delivered his privilege speech two weeks after transgender woman Gretchen Diez was barred by janitress Chayra Ganal from using a women's restroom at Farmers Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City, and was later arrested for it. (READ: Gretchen Diez comes out)

The incident renewed calls for the passage of the SOGIE equality bill, which was approved in the House of Representatives in the previous 17th Congress but languished in the Senate. Senate President Vicente Sotto III already said the bill has "no chance" in the 18th Congress.

Villanueva believes Diez's ordeal became a "full-blown tug-of-war" that supposedly disregarded Ganal's side of the story. Ganal and Farmers Plaza have since apologized to Diez.

Villanueva, who is also a House deputy speaker, did not allow any lawmaker to interpellate him after his speech. 

But two other conservative lawmakers – House Minority Leader and Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr, and Buhay Representative Lito Atienza – delivered brief manifestations backing Villanueva's opposition to the SOGIE equality bill.

Geraldine Roman calls for openness

Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, the country's first transgender congresswoman, told Villanueva she is open to working with her colleagues to look for a "win-win solution that will be respectful of the rights of everyone."

Roman urged House members to read the SOGIE equality bill that she is championing. (READ: Roman to LGBTQ+: 'Demand from gov't what is due us as human beings’)

"Let us not be carried away by extrapolations nor by fear nor by very far away scenarios from other countries," said Roman.

"But rather focus on the essence and the objective of the bill, which is simply to afford fellow Filipinos the same rights when it comes to work, to study, to receive services from the government, and to access commercial and public establishments, not to be insulted in the streets. And these fellow Filipinos just happen to be members of the LGBT community," she added.

Roman then reminded the legislators in the plenary hall that the members of the LGBTQ+ community are their "friends and neighbors."

"So there is nothing to fear but everything to look forward to in a society that welcomes everyone, even people coming from the minority that is known as the LGBT community," said Roman. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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