The fight for equality and for the end of discrimination for the LGBT community continues. More than 20 years after it was first passed, the SOGIE bill is still not a law. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and it’s still a long journey ahead.
Where exactly are we now with the SOGIE bill? And what LGBT rights in the Philippines should you be aware of? Read on to find out more.
What is the SOGIE Bill?
The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill is a legislative proposal that seeks to put an end to gender-based discrimination in the Philippines and penalize anyone involved in such activities. It aims to fulfill the equal protection clause in the 1987 Constitution and recognize the LGBT community as equals. Thus, equal protection of their rights.
In short, the SOGIE bill seeks to criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The earliest version of the SOGIE Equality Bill was filed in 2000 by the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and former Akbayan Representative Loretta Rosales under the 11th Congress.
In December 2020, Senate Bill No. 1934, or the proposed SOGIESC-based Anti-Discrimination Act, was passed by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros. This bill now includes prohibiting marginalization and violence based on sex characteristics.
Is the SOGIE Bill Already Approved?
Deliberations are still ongoing. The SOGIE Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 2017 and languished at second reading in the Senate. Since its August 2016 filing in the Senate, the bill has undergone six interpellations and five inquiries.
Senator Hontiveros brought up the proposed measure again in December 2020 in the 18th Congress and called on fellow lawmakers to support the SOGIESC Equality Bill.
How Will the SOGIE Bill Protect the LGBTQ Discrimination?
The SOGIE bill aims to penalize any person, organization, or corporation that violates it or commits actions that are identified as discrimination against LGBTQ. Some of these actions include being harrassed by the military or police and being refused medical services, access to establishments, or admission to learning institutions.
Furthermore, the bill seeks to create an inclusive and compassionate culture and to educate and raise awareness on SOGIE and human rights. And it aims to treat LGBTQ discrimination as a crime.
In terms of business or governance, the SOGIE bill will also encourage members of the LGBT community to invest and put up their own businesses and be recognized for their contributions on a local and national level.
Local Ordinances That Support LGBT Rights in the Philippines
Although there are still no national LGBT laws that penalize LGBTQ discrimination, there are a number of local government units that have already passed anti-discrimination ordinances. These include Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, Cebu City, and Batangas City, just to name a few.
LGBT Rights in the Philippines
Although you may have heard stories about LGBT individuals who have lost economic opportunities because of inequality or discrimination in the workplace, you don’t have to be one of them. Especially if you know your rights in the workplace, in business, or with your personal finances. Here are some worth taking note of.
The first ever Philippine Corporate SOGIE Diversity and Inclusiveness (CSDI) Index—a study conducted by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce and research firm Cogencia— surveyed 100 companies on their anti-discrimination and equal opportunity employment policies.
Out of the 100, they found zero Philippine-based companies implementing policies meant to protect their employees from SOGIE-based discrimination. However, 17% (companies from the BPO sector) had some SOGIE-inclusive and non-discrimination policies in place.
The numbers are less than ideal, which is why the passing of the SOGIE bill can help put an end to discrimination in the workplace. Still, we have anti-discrimination ordinances in different cities and provinces in the country. If your company is located in a city with this ordinance in place, then your company is required to follow the rules and adopt the anti-discrimination programs to protect the rights of their LGBT employees.
For example, employers in Quezon City should comply with the wage and benefits stipulated in the Regional Wage Board. Moreover, they should conduct annual SOGIE and Gender Sensitivity Training, as well as provide a copy of the ordinance to all employees and post it in two conspicuous places in the office.
In the business landscape, the LGBT community continues to engage, educate, encourage, and flourish. There are no laws preventing the LGBT community to be entrepreneurs or to put up their own businesses. In fact, there are grants and mentorship programs available, such as Queer Safe Spaces’ Empower Program, a socio-economic program for queer people to better help them with their livelihood and business plans.
There’s also the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce that promotes LGBT representation in business and entrepreneurship. Aside from championing the contributions of the LGBT community in business, it also provides support in unlocking and realizing their potential in business, entrepreneurship, and management.
Life Insurance Legal Beneficiaries
Planning to get a life insurance policy with your LGBT partner as your beneficiary? You can! Even if same sex marriage isn’t legal in the Philippines, members of the LGBT community may designate their partners as beneficiaries in their insurance plan.
According to the Insurance Commission, there are no legal impediments to designating your LGBT partner as your life insurance beneficiary. But there are exceptions, of course. Under Article 739 of the Civil Code, a beneficiary can’t be someone who’s guilty of adultery or concubinage or criminal offenses.
The Philippines doesn't allow same sex unions, which means it doesn't recognize joint adoptions by same sex couples as well. But this doesn’t mean that LGBT individuals are barred from adopting a child. As a prospective adopter, your gender identity or sexual orientation isn’t a requirement of Philippine domestic adoption.
It’s been many years since the SOGIE bill was first passed, and there are still so many hurdles ahead. But with the efforts of lawmakers, politicians, and the LGBT community, we continue to make progress in terms of LGBT rights in the Philippines. Even if this progress is just one small step at a time. We can’t wait to see the Philippines (and the whole world) without discrimination and marginalization―only respect, love, and equality.
-  Sotto: ‘No chance’ of passing SOGIE bill in Senate (Inquirer, August 2019)
-  TIMELINE: SOGIE equality in the Philippines (Rappler, August 2019)
-  Senate panel approves SOGIESC-based anti-discrimination bill (Inquirer, December 2020)
-  SOGIE equality bill reintroduced to the Senate (CNN Philippines, December 2020)
-  Anti-discrimination bill fails to hurdle Congress (CNN, June 2019)
-  What is QC’s ordinance against LGBTQ+ discrimination all about? (Rappler 2019)
-  City of Mandaluyong Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (Sangguniang Panlungsod, City of Mandaluyong, May 2018)
-  Survey finds that Filipino companies are not accepting of LGBTQ+ (CNN Philippines, November 2018)
-  Creating more opportunities for Filipino queer entrepreneurs (Manila Bulletin, April 2022)
-  Insurance Commission: LGBTQ members can designate partners as insurance beneficiary (PhilStar, March 2020)
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