Emotional Roman urges Congress to pass anti-discrimination bill

MANILA, Philippines – Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman became teary-eyed as she delivered her first privilege speech at the House of Representatives, where she urged fellow lawmakers to finally pass the anti-discrimination bill into law. 

The neophyte lawmaker is a co-author of the the “Anti SOGI (Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity) Discrimination Act,” which has been repeatedly refiled in previous Congresses but remained in limbo for the past 17 years. 

Roman, the first transgender congresswoman in the country's history, began her speech with an emotional tribute to her late father, former Bataan 1st District Representative Antonino "Tony" Roman, who died in 2014 due to multiple organ failure. 

Roman said that while her father was the “epitome of a macho politician with his iconic moustache and charming good looks,” he fully accepted his transgender child. 

She recalled a time in October 2013 when her father told her about his dream that she was giving a privilege speech at the Batasang Pambansa. At the time, Tony Roman was already frail due to emphysema.

The elder Roman told his daughter that in his dream, his child was urging lawmakers to treat her and respect her as a co-equal.

“If my father could hear me now, I would tell him this: ‘Daddy, you and I need not beg my colleagues for respect. I am glad and proud that the members of the 17th Congress have not only welcomed me with open arms. They have dealt with me as a full-fledged colleague, as an equal,” shared an emotional Roman. 

“Daddy, you would be glad to know that they have treated me with the dignity and respect that is due to all human beings,” added Roman, earning her applause from the gallery filled with legislators and advocates for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. 

Roman said, however, that the same treatment cannot be said for majority of the LGBT people across the country. (READ: Proponents hope to pass anti-discrimination bill in 17th Congress)

According to her, there have been 164 cases of hate crimes against the LGBT community since 1996. 

“And yet there is no single office or even a desk within the DOJ (Department of Justice), the PNP (Philippine National Police), and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) that documents and monitors such cases,” said Roman.  

“My dear brother and sisters in the LGBT community, I want you to know that I am but one voice among many in this august chamber that says it is time: It is the time to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. And the time is now!” she added.  

‘No special rights, just equality’ 

If the 17th Congress finally passes the anti-discrimination bill into law, Roman said in her speech that the following would be deemed as discrimination: 

The bill would also prohibit commercial establishments from banning transgender individuals in their premises. 

“What if a member of the PNP harasses a person because he or she is gay? Then the proposed law will make that officer accountable for his or her actions. Harassment occurs when a person is arrested or placed in custody and subjected to extortion, physical or verbal abuse, because that person is gay and vulnerable,” Roman said. 

Violators would be penalized with at least one year up to 6 years jail time and a minimum fine of P100,000 up to P500,000. 

Sana po, katulad ng inyong malugod na pagtanggap sa akin, ay tanggapin po ninyo ang pagiging pantay-pantay ng bawat Pilipino, LGBT man o hindi,” said Roman, saying the anti-discrimination bill is already being supported by more than 100 lawmakers at the House of Representatives. 

(I hope that you would welcome all Filipinos, whether they belong to the LGBT community or not, in the same way that you welcomed me.)

“Recognizing our rights and dignity will in no way diminish yours. We are not asking for special privileges or extra rights. We simply ask for equality. With inclusiveness and diversity, our nation has so much to gain,” she added. – 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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