Villanuevas in Congress move to delay SOGIE Equality Bill

Xave Gregorio, Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Villanuevas in Congress move to delay SOGIE Equality Bill
This July 22, 2019 photo shows Rep. Eddie Villanueva and Sen. Joel Villanueva.
Joel Villanueva Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The father-and-son duo of preacher Rep. Eddie Villanueva (CIBAC party-list) and Senate Majority Joel Villanueva on Wednesday deployed parallel parliamentary tactics to delay proposals that seek to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

With the backing of 18 senators who were convinced through a barrage of letters from evangelical groups that they were not given enough time to air their views on the measure, Villanueva moved to have the SOGIE bill sent to the powerful rules committee, which he chairs. 

This would mean that the measure, which was supposed to be sent to the Senate floor, would go back to the committee level. The rules committee controls where proposals are referred and sets the agenda for Senate session.

"I think it’s been clearly stated and manifested, Madame President, that indeed, we have to hold our horses and give chance to these groups, these sectors to be heard," Sen. Villanueva said.

In her manifestation, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said "we have been listening to and hearing religious groups for 23 years," referring to the length of time that the SOGIE bill has been languishing in Congress. Still, she said, nshe is "willing to keep on engaging and listening in good faith."

Hontiveros would have wanted to conduct another hearing on the SOGIE bill to give more time to evangelical groups to speak, but the majority decided to refer the measure to the rules committee for “further study.”

Hontiveros acceded to the Senate’s ruling, but made clear her objection to it, likening the matter to the biblical story of the Judgment of Solomon.

"It’s like we are ripping apart an infant from the embrace of their mother," she said in Filipino. "What other committee has taken care of such bills as anti-discrimination and SOGIE Equality Bill since more than two decades ago?"

"With the ruling of the presiding officer and based on our rules, as before, Madame President, I submit. But for the record also, I object with every ounce of my being," she said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda repeatedly sought to get an assurance from Sen. Villanueva that the SOGIE Equality bill will not languish in the rules committee.

He said: "Of course not."

RELATED: House OKs landmark religious freedom bill

‘Illegal’ meeting?

Meanwhile, the older Villanueva sought — and failed — to delay the hearing for the SOGIE bill at the House of Representatives earlier by claiming that it was "illegal" and a form of "forum shopping" by the Committee on Women and Gender Equality. Forum shopping, a concept used in judicial proceedings, refers to filing the same action in separate courts.

He claimed that the SOGIE bill was possibly being railroaded as the Committee on Human Rights was already discussing the more comprehensive anti-discrimination bill — a broader measure that protects people from discrimination on the basis of attributes aside from SOGIE such as race, age, and disability.

"This is a bad precedent that can be abused in the future. Bills ... should be referred to only one committee first. The leadership of 19th Congress might be tainted in the pages of history," he said.

After a brief pause where House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe told chairperson Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan, 1st District) that the bill stays with the gender committee, she resumed the meeting and told Rep. Villanueva to take up his concerns with the House Committee on Rules instead.

The preacher and lawmaker attempted to speak over Roman and argue about the supposed House rules being violated before leaving the meeting.

"I want to put on record that this is not an illegal meeting. We have been given clearance by the Committee on Rules to proceed," Roman added.

Rep. Benny Abante (Manila, 6th District), a Baptist pastor who also chairs the Committee on Human Rights, also accused Roman of railroading the passage of the bill.

Villanueva’s accusations of the illegality of the committee hearing took up around 20 minutes of the four-hour hearing, where several resource persons had to cut their statements short or were unable to present their full position paper for lack of time.






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