Duterte open to certifying anti-discrimination bill as urgent

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to certifying as urgent a bill that will prohibit discrimination.

Asked Tuesday night if he would certify as urgent the bill that seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE), Duterte said in a media briefing, "Whatever would make the mechanisms, what would make them happy. Kagaya kay [Just like with] Senator [Juan Ponce] Enrile, gusto ko happy siya [I want them to be happy.]"

Duterte did not specifically refer to the SOGIE Equality Bill, which is currently pending before Congress.

The President again touted Davao City's anti-discrimination ordinance, which he enacted as then mayor.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religious affiliation, or beliefs.

Aside from the SOGIE Equality Bill, other proposals in Congress also seek to penalize other forms of discrimination.

Gretchen Diez, the trans woman who was barred from using the female restroom and eventually arrested for documenting the ordeal through Facebook Live, has previously told CNN Philippines that Duterte promised to lobby for the SOGIE Equality Bill, so that it would pass Congress before the year ends.

Diez and Duterte met in Malacañang in August. During the meeting, Duterte also promised to organize a convention for the LGBTQ+ sector.

The SOGIE Equality Bill is currently at the committee level in both the House and the Senate. It aims to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The measure cleared the House in the 17th Congress, but was effectively blocked by conservative Christian and Catholic senators who debated the bill until the legislature adjourned, sending it to the archives.

The House-approved version of the bill seeks to penalize those who commit discriminatory acts against LGBTQ+ Filipinos with a fine of not less than ₱100,000 but not more than ₱500,000, or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years or both, depending on the court's decision.

Some lawmakers, however, asked why there is a need for special legislation for the LGBTQ+ sector, when they can pass a law that broadly prohibits all forms of discrimination. The Philippine National Police also said it is against the SOGIE Equality Bill.

But advocates point out that the LGBTQ+ sector has special needs that should be addressed by a special law.

A 2017 Human Rights Watch report found that only 15 percent of Filipinos reside in areas protected by ordinances against discrimination based on SOGIE.

The same report also said that Filipino LGBTQ+ students “continue to experience bullying and harassment in school” from their peers and teachers.

A joint 2014 study by the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Program found evidence of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in schools, at work and in their communities.