By Hannah Torregoza
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday disclosed that at least 15 senators are against the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill.
Sotto divulged this information as he assured members of the Christian Coalition for Righteousness, Justice and Truth (CCRJT) led by Rep. Eddie Villanueva—an evangelist and founder of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Movement who trooped to the Senate to protest against the measure—that the bill would not prosper in the Senate.
“Yes! Yes na yes!” Sotto told reporters when asked if he is confident if the Senate would not pass the SOGIE equality bill.
“As a matter of fact, you would be surprised, but I would rather not name them now, but when the proper time comes I will. A great majority (of them is against it); I would say at least 15,” the Senate leader stressed.
The group turned over to Sotto their positions papers regarding the SOGIE bill. Also in attendance is Sen. Joel Villanueva, son of the JIL founder, and representatives from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC).
Outside the room where Sotto and the religious groups gathered, pro-SOGIE groups converged at the hallway near the Senate session hall for an exhibit that showcases the life and rights of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ+).
Sen. Risa Hontiveros graced the opening of the exhibit launch dubbed as “Humanizing SOGIE” where she stressed that the exhibit is a protest against the violence committed against members of the LGBTQ community.
Citing the case of Jessa Remiendo, a 29-year-old transgender woman who was found dead at a white sand beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Hontiveros said she hopes that the passage into law of the SOGIE equality bill would put an end to the hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQ community.
“This exhibit is a protest to that. This exhibit is a protest against violence. It allows us to peer into the lives of persons of diverse orientation and gender identity,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros, the primary proponent of the SOGIE equality measure in the Senate, said crimes against LGBTQ persons “does not happen in a vacuum.”
“It’s never an isolated event but an expression of a mindset of hate that is allowed to ferment over the years. It starts with thoughts and words that aim to demean and invalidate. It seeps into our culture and public lives. Denial of public services, discrimination in employment and education and ultimately bullying and violence,” said the senator.
She said stories of the LGBTQ persons featured in the exhibit are small, powerful protests guaranteed to inspire “thousands more of others to build a better kinder and more loving society that would make the case of Jessa the last of its kind.”
‘Hidden, horrible provisions’
Prior to his dialogues with Villanueva, around 2,000 members of the CCRJT staged a prayer rally at the entrance of the Senate grounds. The CCRJT, an alliance of Bible-believing individuals of all faiths and persuasions, said they affirm the traditional family and family values of the Philippines.
The group likewise, reiterated their belief that passage of the SOGIE bill into law would destroy the Filipino family, which is the basic unit of society.
But while they are against the passage of the bill, the CCRJT said they favor other ways that would protect the LGBT community from ostracism, bashing, bullying and other forms of discrimination.
The group also said they favor possible amendments to the Revised Penal Code, where penalties for the crimes of physical injuries, homicide, libel, defamation, etc. can be increased to at least a degree higher if the motivation for the crime is to disrespect, contempt or insult a member of the LGBT community.
Bishop Noel Pantoja, PCEC National Director, said they believe prayer is key to thwart any moves that aim to pass the SOGIE bill which, though purporting to be “anti-discriminatory” is in itself discriminatory and violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
“We believe that we have sufficient laws (that would protect them) and this (SOGIE bill) is a redundancy. As we share and teach the Word of God, we believe that this proposed law is an outright move that would trample the family that is created by God,” said Pantoja.
“If this proposed law advances further and in the end, leads to the legalization of same-sex marriage, it will really destroy the family which God created. That is why we are extremely against this bill,” he stressed.
Rep. Villanueva said that upon careful scrutiny of the SOGIE bill, he found out there were hidden horrible provisions in it that would be detrimental to the Filipino community eventually.
“Under this bill, if one member of the LGBT community felt they were offended, for example by the word of God, where it is said that homosexual offenders cannot enter the kingdom of heaven and they will be thrown into the lake of fire. If you quote the Bible, and they accuse you in court, you will be imprisoned for five to twelve years.
“The penalty is P250,000 to half a million or imprisonment of six to 12 years. Where is equality? This is very deceiving,” the congressman said.
“I am not blaming our countrymen here who are supporting this bill, I believe that groups in Western countries are behind these deceiving strategies. But the Philippine culture is enough for us to become a great nation. The patriotic spirit of the Filipino is sufficient, our love for God and nation is sufficient. So why do we need to import a template from Western countries just to drastically change the system in our country. That is just my respectful reminder,” Rep. Villanueva stressed.
Sotto said he is extremely thankful to Rep. Villanueva for opening up and exposing the issue in the House of Representatives and assured the evangelist that the Senate would be vigilant against the SOGIE bill.
“There are so many laws that protect the individual Filipino, not just a particular sector,” Sotto emphasized.
“Therefore, you can rest assured, as far as the Senate is concerned, Sen. Villanueva, Senator (Manny) Pacquiao, and many others… I assure you, there is a great majority in the Senate that supports your cause,” he told the congressman.