The Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights of the Philippines Congress finally held the first public hearing on the anti-discrimination bill (House Bill 956) on December 9, 2009. Rep. Erin Tanada, the Committee chairperson, finally agreed to the hearing after pressure by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups and media in the Philippines accusing him of 'sitting on the bill' for the duration of his term as chairperson of the Committee.
Authored by Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, the anti-discrimination bill (download PDF here), "An Act Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis Of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties Therefore," has been languishing in Congress since it was filed in 1999 during the 11th Congress. It seeks to prohibit a wide range of practices and policies that discriminate against LGBT people by ending discrimination in schools, workplaces, and public spaces; denial of accreditation to LGBT groups, including political parties; and police and military abuse and harassment.
The public hearing resulted in the formation of a technical working group to redraft the bill in consideration of the information presented by 'resource persons' (key representatives of groups opposing or supporting a bill) who were invited during the hearing. Given the upcoming national elections in 2010, LGBT activists are not optimistic that the bill will be passed into law soon because most politicians in both Houses of the Congress and Senate will likely avoid the controversial bill in their bid to get re-elected. Photos
LGBT activists in the Philippines nevertheless insist that a push for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill is still necessary, despite setbacks and opposition from the government and from mainstream society, particularly conservative religious groups. Representative Bienvenido Abante, a Baptist pastor who won a seat in Congress, used his positions as chairperson from 2005-07 and vice-chairperson from 2008-09 of the House Committee on Human Rights to block the passage of the anti-discrimination bill. During the public hearing on the bill, he vehemently objected to LGBT resource persons speaking, and encouraged resource persons from various church groups to dominate the hearings. His arguments, as well as the arguments of religious groups opposing the bill, were that (1) since the laws in the Philippines protect human rights of all citizens, there is no need for the anti-discrimination bill; (2) the bill will provide special rights for LGBTs; and (3) if the anti-discrimination bill is passed into law, LGBT people will then ask for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The need for legal protections for LGBT people is particularly clear in light of the vehement homophobic opposition to the registration of the LGBT political party, Ang LADLAD by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), preventing the group from running in the national election. Read complete article - IGLHRC