Civil Service okay with SOGIE bill

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    The Civil Service Commission said it found “nothing legally objectionable” to the Senate bills seeking to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

    In a three-page position paper made public yesterday, the CSC, through Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo, said the measures will be in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

    The CSC cited Sec. 11, Article II and Sec. 1, Article III of the Constitution, which uphold the dignity of every human being, full respect for human rights, and equal protection of the laws.

    It also compared the proposed SOGIE Equality Bill to existing laws protecting specific groups in society, such as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Magna Carta for Public Social Workers.

    It noted that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “are continuously subjected to discrimination, even in their own homes, which violate their fundamental human rights.”

    But, resource persons invited to a Senate hearing yesterday dismissed the proposal to penalize gender-based discrimination as based on “feelings.”

    During the hearing by the Senate women, family and gender equality committee, lawyer Lyndon Caña of the Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines claimed SOGIE was not grounded on facts, without citing any basis for his assertion.

    “Sexual orientation, that is subjective. Gender identity, that is subjective versus later on rights that come from facts,” Caña said, adding: “So there is a contest here of facts and feelings. We are very concerned that under the SOGIE bill, facts will be defeated by feelings.”

    Cesar Buendia, who identified himself as a former homosexual, also said: “Gender identity is based on the mind and not on objective, observable facts.”

    Although the group identifies itself as Christian, 700 Club Asia legal counsel Winnie Salumbides echoed this dismissive stance about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) community. The lawyer treated the issue as just a matter of maturity.

    “It’s also important that we are not stuck in being sensitive about or feelings. Can’t we move towards the sensitivity of maturity?” Salumbides said.

    Yet, he also bemoaned that prohibiting gender-based discrimination smacked of “undue preference for those in the LGBT Community.”

    “It’s as if we’re giving them special rights or protection,” he said.

    Committee chair and SOGIE bill proponent Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the religious people still had to be invited and allowed to air their views in the spirit of consultation.

    “Let’s talk. It is better to discuss this more personally. We are here to listen to each other, understand and be open to one another,” she said.

    Four versions of the Anti-Discrimination Act were filed and now pending at the committee level. These include Senate Bill No. 159, authored by Hontiveros and Sen. Leila de Lima, which was a refiled version of a bill that failed to gain traction in the 17th Congress.

    In general, all versions of the measure sought to penalize persons who, on the basis of SOGIE promote stigma and incite violence; subject a person to profiling, detention or harassment by authorities; require disclosure as a criteria for work-related matters; refuse admission to schools or impose disciplinary sanctions on students; refuse the registration of any organization; deny an application for or revoke government licenses or permits; and deny access to medical services and use of public establishments.

    Sen. Imee Marcos’s Senate Bill No. 412 contained additional provisions penalizing cyber-bullying and punishing parents or guardians who prevent children from expressing their SOGIE.

    Her version of the bill will criminalize hate speech, but will give a free pass for “religious speech and comments made in the context of a religious service, ceremony or activity.”

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s Senate Bill No. 689 will make it a crime to force a person to undergo medical or psychological examination to determine their SOGIE without their consent. This may be allowed for minors, but only with the approval of a Family Court.

    Sen. Grace Poe’s Senate Bill No. 315 included in its scope discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, language, disability, and educational attainment.

    Penalties include fines of P100,000 to P500,000 and imprisonment of one to six years, or even as long as 12 years in cases involving authorities, schools and hospitals.

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