Published in MANILA BULLETIN | July 6, 2019

Over 77,000 LGBTs and allies came out on June 29, 2019, in what could now be dubbed the biggest Pride March not just in the Philippines but in all of Southeast Asia.

They came in droves and defied inclement weather and the usual handful of fundamentalists who “join” the march only to heap hate on the marchers. The rains and the noisy “Christian” hecklers failed to dampen the mood of the marchers and rallyists.

The theme “Resist Together” found resonance in a community long the subject of discrimination inside and outside the family, in schools and offices, and in even in churches where they thought they could find solace.

Philippine society may have been one big closet, and the Pride March was where the LGBTs came out proudly to declare that they exist, that they are citizens too, and that they are entitled to the same rights and obligations as everyone else.

In posts that managed to get through the clogged networks, marchers testified to the good vibes and sense of community they experienced inside the Marikina Sports Center and in the warm, welcoming embrace of the people of Marikina.

Thus, Marikina today rightfully occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of LGBTs. The local government didn’t need to light up the city’s watchtower with rainbow colors. It didn’t need to be known as the venue of the Pride March. And it didn’t need the complication of perhaps having to defend its decision to be welcoming and affirming of Filipino LGBTs. Besides, it is already known as our proud national shoe-making capital.

But Marikina is far advanced in its thinking that a fairer city means a more progressive city. We could only praise Marikina’s local government for passing the anti-discrimination ordinance, and telling all the people of Marikina that LGBTs are not second-class citizens, and that LGBTs have a stake in making their city the best it could be.

Political observers would now find it hard to deny the clout that LGBTs can wield in politics. The march was a preview of the LGBTs as a political force waiting to be called into action and for other political players to reckon with.

Tens of thousands of LGBTs and allies hold biggest Metro Manila Pride March thus far. / Tonyo Cruz

It is perhaps only a matter of time before LGBTs and allies transform their broad alliance into a political movement to seek and win reforms such as the SOGIE Equality Bill (more popularly known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill), and other measures that aim to promote inclusion, diversity and respect, and at the same time combat hate, inequality, and acts of violence against LGBTs. Marriage equality may not be that too far away, after all.

Shots were fired in Congress soon after the Pride March. Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat refiled the SOGIE Equality Bill in the House, while Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed a counterpart bill in the Senate. Sen. Sonny Angara also reportedly filed his own version of the bill. It is still not known if Sen. Joel Villanueva would again co-author the Senate SOGIE Equality Bills, and thereafter use all sorts of parliamentary maneuvers to strangle and to kill it as he had done so repugnantly in the last session of Congress.

Vigilance and collective action could be the winning factor in turning the SOGIE Equality Bill into a SOGIE Equality Act. Vigilance and collective action could be useful in influencing representatives and senators to take the side of their LGBT constituents, to be champions of non-discrimination and equal protection, and ultimately to vote in favor of the bill. Vigilance and collective action could expose and thwart parliamentary maneuvers from the likes of Senator Villanueva and quite possibly from reelected Rep. Benny Abante in the House.

The SOGIE Equality Bill does not give extra or special rights to LGBTs. What it does is to guarantee that LGBTs have the same rights as everyone else. The SOGIE Equality Bill does not discriminate against schools, offices, churches and faiths. It reminds schools, offices, churches and faiths about respect for the rights and dignity of all persons.

Theologians and leaders from various faiths are eagerly awaiting another chance to enlighten Congress on LGBTs, religious beliefs, and civil rights. The Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Iglesia Filipino Independiente and others have come out to declare that God’s love is total and without exception. Shouldn’t society guarantee that civil rights and liberties be enjoyed without discrimination by all its citizens?

I have always believed that the first obligation of citizens in our country is to safeguard the freedoms, rights, and liberties won by our forebears and thus guaranteed in the Constitution. I now think a little bit differently. Our first obligation is to make those freedoms, rights, and liberties a reality for all Filipinos to enjoy.

Thus, all citizens should stand together with LGBTs and other discriminated sectors in laying claim to their full civil rights in the same manner that the state and society requires them to fulfil legal obligations such as paying taxes and other means of supporting society and the state.

It is no longer just unfair but unacceptable to see LGBTs deprived of any of their civil rights they are entitled to and are guaranteed of enjoying. The right to privacy, the right to be employed and to be paid justly for such employment, the right to education, and the right to love and to be loved.

Whatever next steps LGBTs take from now on would be crucial and consequential in their fate and in the future of the country. LGBTs should turn the Pride March into the “bisperas” to the passage of the SOGIE Equality Act, the preview to the celebration over the election of the first LGBT party-list representatives, and the small and big victories waiting to be won in homes, schools, offices, churches, and the larger society.

Yes, folks. “Resist together” could also mean “winning together.”