By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III objected to a Department of Education (DepEd) memorandum order encouraging the celebration of ‘Pride Month’ in schools, associating it with one of the “deadly sins” in religion.
During the plenary debates on the DepEd’s proposed 2020 budget Tuesday night, Sotto raised the topic of a “regional memorandum order” issued by the department that includes the observance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT+) Pride Month in its school calendar for the month of June.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the DepEd budget, said the agency was aware of the memorandum order, issued by the DepEd division office in Mabalacat City, Pampanga.
Cayetano explained the DepEd order did not require students and teachers to participate or hold activities related to Pride Month.
“There were no penalties imposed on schools that did not comply. There were no repercussions for schools, students or teachers who did not participate. Rest assured that the DepEd and its local offices have not required teachers and students to join any activity, demonstration, or rally pertaining to Pride celebration,” Cayetano said, reading part of the DepEd’s official response.
“They can participate, there’s the freedom to do so, but they cannot require,” she clarified to Sotto.
“Well, I am just concerned this might cause confusion in young minds, especially, I heard the memo was quite encouraging because it is integrated in some of the activities of the students from kindergarten to senior high school,” Sotto reacted.
“And it was lumped together with women’s month, breastfeeding month, peace education month, children’s month, the 18-day campaign to end violence against women, and human rights month. These are all very good undertakings but may sumingit na ganoong biglang Pride Month (suddenly there is a Pride Month inserted there),” he lamented.
Sotto continued: “As far as I know, pride is still one of the seven deadly sins. As a matter of fact, in my book that I wrote many years ago, ‘Vision for a Drug-Free Philippines’, I’ve written that pride is the ‘head of Satan, and humility is his headache’.”
“So I hope that the Department of Education will try to avoid something as controversial as this,” he told DepEd officials led by Secretary Leonor Briones who was present in the budget deliberations.
Apparently unsatisfied, Sotto asked if the DepEd division order is still being implemented.
Cayetano, who was seated beside Briones, said the order was no longer in effect.
“She had mentioned to me that they would want to be sure that this is clear so that there’s no confusion,” the senator said, quoting the DepEd secretary.
Only then did Sotto accept the DepEd response.
Pride Month is celebrated worldwide in June as a movement for equal justice and opportunity for members of the LGBT community.
Sotto, a devout Catholic, has been opposed to the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill which seeks to protect members of the LBGT+ community from discrimination.
He is pushing instead for a “comprehensive anti-discrimination bill” that would cover not only SOGIE but also religious belief, race, ethnicity, and social class.