At House hearing on SOGIE bills, LGBTQ+ labeled ‘super special elite class’

November 4, 2020 - 5:33 PM
2017 Pride March
Some 7,500 members of the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters attend the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival in Marikina City, June 24, 2017. (Interaksyon/Bernard Testa/File Photo)

Lawyer Lyndon Caña of the Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines claimed that the LGBTQ+ community is becoming a “super special elite class” as the community sought for a passage of SOGIE-specific anti-discrimination bills.

The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality on Wednesday continued its deliberations on the proposed 16 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bills where 25 resource persons were in attendance.

One of them, Caña, expressed his objections against the SOGIE Bill and asked how the “straight community” can supposedly benefit from it despite the bill protecting everyone, according to Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan, First District), the committee vice-chair.

“What is in the bill for the straight community? Do they have identity? There is not even an attempt to protect them,” he was quoted as saying in the hearing.

“With respect to the LGBT community, while we respect them, while we love them, nagiging super special elite class siya compared to the rest of the community,” Caña added. 

Roman argued that the LGBTQ community’s “the right to study” and “right to work” without facing discrimination are not special privileges but “basic rights.”

“We are here to craft enabling laws for marginalized communities. For OFW (overseas Filipino workers), for indigenous communities. To oppose this is discrimination,” she added.

Metro Manila Pride, an organization advocating for the empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community, said the United Nations Human Rights Council has invoked the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it passed resolutions protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Commission of Human Rights also noted that the rights on the basis of the SOGIE Bill “are already recognized by various international human rights documents.”

‘Basic human rights’ 

Meanwhile, Caña’s remarks about the LGBTQ+ community supposedly being a “super special elite class” for asking for the recognition of their rights earned the ire of Filipinos online.

The hearing also prompted the hashtag “#SOGIEEqualityNow” to land on local Twitter’s trending list as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Special elite class????? We literally get killed just for being ourselves?” a Twitter user asked in response to Caña’s comments.

“Super… Special… Elite… I’m none of those. Stop saying you love and respect a group of people while denying them of rights to live in equality. That is not the unconditional love towards the Creator’s work that the Church is trying to teach (allegedly),” another online user said.

“Granting equal rights does not take away any existing rights. People are getting killed for being themselves, how is that even ‘super special elite class’? And then you’re okay with pardoning a murderer? I hate it here,” a Filipino said in reference to the case of American serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Another Twitter user shared some screenshots of articles about the continuous discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community faces in the country.

Cases of discrimination 

Bahaghari secretary-general Rey Valmores-Salinas, who was also part of the Pride protesters detained by the police last June, shared some names and pictures of the LGBTQ+ community members who faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

Her list includes Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transwoman who was killed by US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton in 2014 after finding out that she was a transsexual.

The serviceman was supposed to serve six to 12 years in prison at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, which was later reduced to 10.

Pemberton was then granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of his supposed early release due to the computation of his Good Conduct Time Allowance.

Other names in Valmores-Salinas’ list are Madonna Nierra, Jessa Remiendo and Heart Pontanes.

Nierra was a transwoman whose body was found in a river in Caloocan. Her death spurred the LGBTQ+ community to launch the hashtag “#JusticeForDonnaNierra” on social media.

Remiendo was another transwoman who has hacked to death in Pangasinan. Her death was a shock to the transgender community in the province since they are “widely accepted” there, according to United Pangasinan Association LGBTQ+ president Noreen Barber.

Pontanes, meanwhile, was a transwoman who was stabbed to death by two male individuals. The crime was recorded on a 30-minute video by one of the suspects.

The SOGIE Equality Bill or House Bill 6294 aims to penalize acts of discrimination due to people’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

It reportedly completes the definition of terms on SOGIE, explains trans hate crime, corrects penalties from based on “homosexuals” to “based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression” and proposes for the implementation of the bill on local government unit levels.