Christian groups troop to Senate vs landmark SOGIE bill

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, a conservative, says the bill is practically dead in the 17th Congress

Camille Elemia

9:50:18am March 7, 2018

9:50:18am March 7, 2018

PROTEST. Members of Christian groups troop to the Senate to protest the SOGIE bill. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

PROTEST. Members of Christian groups troop to the Senate to protest the SOGIE bill. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of members from various Christian groups, led by the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) movement, trooped outside the Senate to protest the anti-discrimination bill which protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The Coalition of Christians for Righteousness, Justice, and Truth (CCRJT) said the mere introduction of the bill punishing discrimination over a person's sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) violates the 1987 Constitution.

The group said homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible and that existing laws are sufficient to protect all Filipinos, including members of the LGBT community, from discrimination.

The protesters also argued that the SOGIE bill is "discriminatory" against those who do not agree with the LGBT community.

They added that the measure seeks to pave the way for same-sex unions.

"Same-sex marriage is an abomination to God. The Bible is so clear about the man marrying another man. This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation," JIL founder Brother Eddie Villanueva told reporters.

"As we have said, the LGBT people, they can continue [with] their lifestyle. We don't interfere but they should not allow the non-believers of their lifestyle to accept their ways that will pave the way for eventual destruction of the Filipino culture and values," he added.

Bleak future in the Senate

The House of Representatives already passed its version of the SOGIE bill in September 2017.

But in the Senate, the bill has been in the period of interpellations since December 2016. Minority Senator Risa Hontiveros is the sponsor of the measure.

An uphill battle is expected at the Senate. After all, the chamber's leaders are not in favor of it, especially Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the one who calls the Senate's agenda. Sotto has consistently opposed the measure, as evident in his interpellation.

In fact, the Christian groups met with him and Senator Gregorio Honasan after the protest.

Sotto said the bill is practically dead in the 17th Congress. He said it is not moving because the "interpellators are not yet ready."

"Hindi... Alin, June 2019? Hindi (No, you mean until June 2019? No)," Sotto said, laughing.

"'Yung mga tinake up namin, pareho din ng sinasabi nila. Mas marami pa sila sinasabi. Nasa interpellation pa rin sa 'min. 'Di namin na-schedule kasi ang mga interpellators 'di pa ready,"  he added.

(All the topics we covered in the debate, they also raised that. They even raised more. We are still in the period of interpellation. We can't schedule it because the interpellators are not yet ready.)

In 2012 during the debates on the administration-backed reproductive health bill, Sotto, who was also the majority leader then, filibustered.

Aside from Sotto, anti-SOGIE bill senators include Joel Villanueva and Manny Pacquiao.

Among the main contentions during the last debate was the appropriate restrooms for LGBTs.

At the time, Hontiveros said transwomen can use female restrooms while transmen and gay men can use male restrooms. She also cited the practice of gender-neutral restrooms, particularly in places such as coffee shops and business process outsourcing firms.

Hontiveros earlier said the proposed law would ensure that stigma and hate would not hinder LGBTs from accessing education, healthcare, employment, and other basic rights. – Rappler.com