The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made it clear that they reject the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill for all the wrong reasons.
On Aug. 28, Inquirer.net reported that the AFP sent a position paper to the House committee on women and gender equality saying that the SOGIE bill, which seeks to prohibit the discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, is just a reiteration of existing laws. Confusingly, the AFP also stated that it would be “unjust to grant special privilege to some persons at the expense of the basic rights of others.”
“The AFP, as a government institution, does not discriminate any person based on sex and gender… The AFP has existing laws, policies, and standard operating procedures and other pertinent documents that protect personnel from discrimination,” it said, according to the report.
“Our national and local laws and AFP’s internal policies provide for equality. These will be violated if the SOGIE bill will be pursued,” the AFP added.
Authors of the bill Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman and Bukidnon Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba responded to the AFP and argued that the bill is in accordance with the Constitution which states that the government should govern “under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”
“The Constitution cannot promulgate itself. It is not a cure-all document. It needs an enabling law to address the specific problems of specific groups. That is why we have laws protecting women, senior citizens, cancer patients, and yet we do not have a law against discrimination against LGBTQIA+,” Roman said.
Acosta-Alba shared Roman’s sentiments and emphasized that the bill does not grant special privileges but provides the LGBTQIA+ community equal access to social services such as public education, social welfare, employment, legal protection from harassment, bullying, among others.
Back in Oct. 2019, Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed similar sentiments with the AFP and said, “All Filipinos and everyone in the Philippines are equally protected by equal rights and all the rights that are given to any individual in the Philippines. There are enough laws that cover the particular issues that [the supporters of the SOGIE Bill] are talking about.” However, Sen. Risa Hontiveros responded to this by saying that “kulang pa yung mga batas para protektahan ang bawa’t Pilipino, lalo immediately yung [LGBTQIA+] community, laban sa diskriminasyon.”
Just to be clear, the SOGIE bill seeks to end discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community by providing them basic social services and equal access to what cisgender heterosexual people experience. It’s not about granting them “special privileges” or giving them more rights than others, it’s about allowing them to be treated like human beings.
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