“With respect to any bill, the discretion the wisdom will always lie on the lawmakers,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
It’s up to Congress to act on SOGIE bill – Palace
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is leaving it to lawmakers to decide on the fate of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

“With respect to any bill, the discretion the wisdom will always lie on the lawmakers,” Panelo said.

The SOGIE bill is facing an uphill battle at the Senate after Senate President Vicente Sotto III and several other senators expressed no need for such measure since there are enough provisions in the law, giving equal protection to all sexes.

Regardless if the measure is being strongly supported by the President, Panelo said the Senate and the House of Representatives will decide on it independently, as they are collegial bodies independent from Malacañang.

“Still, even if the President supports it, if the Congress disagrees. That’s how the so-called balance of power and checks and balances operate,” Panelo said.

The Palace maintains the stance even after President Duterte met with transgender woman Gretchen Diez and other LGBTQ rights advocates at Malacañang last week.

Diez recently figured in an altercation with a janitress in a Quezon City mall, which revived debates over anti-discrimination issue.

Sotto said proponents of the SOGIE Equality bill tried to “smuggle” a provision of allowing same-sex marriage.

He pointed out that although Sen. Risa Hontiveros said same-sex marriage was not mentioned in the proposed measure, there was a provision that says that any government agency that refuses or fails to grant same-sex marriage license can be held for discrimination.

“So, if we are both male, then we can secure a marriage license. If you will not grant you can be jailed, penalized. What does it mean? Same sex marriage,” he said in Filipino during an interview over DWIZ.

He added the proponents could simply opt to delete that provision.

“But you also mentioned that (provision) in the House version although it was deleted. But when this reaches the bicam level, you will put it in again. We cannot allow those to reach the bicam level,” he also said.

The Senate President cited that the SOGIE bill only focuses on gay rights but the lesbians do not even stand to benefit from it.

He said that the equal rights that the transgenders are calling for might affect the rights of women—something that he will not allow to happen. He suggested that the women’s groups, academician, religious and other stakeholders will be invited to the SOGIE hearing to get their perspectives on the matter.

“This time I am speaking for the women. This is a women’s rights issue, it’s no longer a transgender rights issue because, in my view, the bodies of women are temples and the toilets, to them, are sacred. We could not just allow someone to enter the women’s toilets because it is there that they are at their weakest,” Sotto also said.

He maintained that the SOGIE bill is just redundancy of the anti-discrimination bill.

Sotto revealed that he has been receiving letters, which indicated that the alleged discrimination incident at a mall in Quezon City could be scripted to get public attention and press the passage of the SOGIE bill. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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