Long-awaited anti-discrimination bill flounders in Senate of the Philippines

Long-awaited anti-discrimination bill flounders in Senate of the Philippines
The bill's sponsor, senator Risa Hontiveros

Long-awaited anti-discrimination legislation has floundered after lawmakers failed to tackle the bill in this session of the Senate of the Philippines.

The bill, which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), has become one of the slowest-moving bills in the country’s history.

‘Should we still debate about something as basic as equality? For three years? Really?’ The bill’s sponsor, Senator Risa Hontiveros, said according to CNN.

Hontiveros filed the bill in 2016. But, lawmakers and rights activist originally drafted the law nearly 20 years ago.

The House of Representatives passed the bill in 2017 with unanimous support from 198 lawmakers.

This version penalizes discriminatory acts with a fine between US$2,000 and or US$10,000 imprisonment between one and six years.

But, conservative lawmakers, including anti-LGBTI boxer Manny Pacquiao, have stalled it in the Senate.

Hontiveros, meanwhile,  told the Manila Bulletin she was confident it would pass in Congress’ next session.

‘While the proposed measure will not pass in this Congress, it has gained new allies and champions’ she said.

‘The concept has also become more mainstream’ she also told the paper. ‘The tide is definitely turning.’

‘A challenge to all of us’ in the Philippines

The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce said the news was ‘unfortunate’.

‘This is a challenge to all of us, on how we can make things better for our community and for everyone in this country’ the chamber wrote on Facebook.

‘Let us learn how we can all work together to do things. To do better. To be better’ they also wrote.

Calls for discrimination protections peaked last year when footage of a popular LGBTI comedian being denied entry to a club went viral.

Jervi Li, more popularly known as Kaladkaren Davila, uploaded a video of a bouncer at H&J Sports Bar in Poblacion, Makati denying her entry.

The Philippines’ first transgender lawmaker also requested a congressional inquiry into the discrimination.

Local administrations, meanwhile, have implemented their own anti-discrimination protections.

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Author: Rik Glauert