Photo from Bahaghari fb

QUEZON CITY – “20 years is enough time for waiting. The Anti-Discrimination or SOGIE Equality Bill has languished long enough in Congress; it is time for its passage, it is time to Achib Dis Bill,” this was the statement of BAHAGHARI spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas as the group launched their campaign to call for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill or more popularly known now as the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill.

Dubbed as #AchibDisBill2020: A Campaign for the Passage of the Anti-Discrimination/SOGIE Equality Bill, the group plans to launch a massive information drive to gather support for the bill, with the aim of pressing legislators to pass the bill into law by year 2020. “If all goes well, then next year would be a significant year for the LGBT+, for it is a year where Philippines would achieve ‘equality,’” said Valmores-Salinas during the press conference held for the launch.
The Anti-Discrimination Bill was first filed in Congress in year 2000, but repeatedly failed to hurdle the opposition of conservative members of the legislative. House Bill No. 4982 managed to pass final reading in the 17th Congress, while the Senate version was shot down in the second reading, arresting the unprecedented advance of the bill. Several lawmakers have refiled their respective bills in the current 18th Congress.

Present in the launching are representatives from the Makabayan bloc in Congress. Lumad leader and Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia “Ka Femia” Culamat who is a co-author of House Bill No. 258 (AN ACT PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY OR EXPRESSION (SOGIE) AND PROVIDING PENALTIES THEREFOR) expressed her support for the group’s effort. “Bilang isang Lumad, isang pambansang minorya, alam ko ang hirap na dinaranas ng mga marginalized, ng mga discriminated, kaya buo ang aming suporta sa pagsisikap na ito. Ang malaking bahagi po ng laban para maisabatas ang ADB o SOGIE Equality Bill ay nasa lansangan kung saan kaya nating ipakita ang ating pagkakaisa,” said the solon.

Also present is Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas who clarified on fears that having an anti-discrimination law would grant “special rights” for the LGBT to the detriment of others. “The proposal does not give special rights to the LGBT+ people, what it merely desires is to protect them from unjust treatment, ridicule and harassment. It does not also take away rights, on the contrary, it aims to promote and protect rights. Wala pong dapat ikatakot sa bill na ito, unless syempre po kung may layunin kayong manakit ng kapwa, na mali naman po talaga to start with,” said the Gabriela solon.

Valmores-Salinas also hit groups airing anti-LGBT sentiments. “There are groups which are in overdrive in demonizing the bill and pitting heterosexuals against LGBT+ and vice versa, but the information they’re churning out are either misrepresented or outright fake, all aimed at spreading hate through misinformation,” said the transwoman leader. “The bill is not a legislation of revenge against straight men and women. It does not aim to reverse the culture of hate and turn it against heterosexual people. It is a legislation to promote understanding and love,” she added.

“The recent Social Weather Station survey revealed that 85% of Filipinos support protection of LGBT+ people against discrimination, it is time to turn that positive opinion into warm bodies, and show that the ADB/SOGIE Equality Bill have the people’s overwhelming support,” Valmores-Salinas further said.

BAHAGHARI plans to carry out public forums in communities, campuses, and workplaces to help the public understand further the contents of the bill and the basics of SOGIE. With the hashtag #ShareKoLAngTih the group further seeks to involve the public by sharing their experiences, stories of coming out, and personal struggles about their SOGIEs. Activities and collective actions such as film screenings, exhibits, poetry and music events, and rallies are also on the pipeline.

“Equality in 2020. Yan ang gusto natin i-achib. “The long delay of the bill’s passage taught us that we cannot just sit and wait for our rights to be given, we have to stand up and fight for them,” the transwoman leader concluded.

BAHAGHARI is a progressive and nationalist organization of LGBT+ people with chapters in various universities, cities, and provinces. Founded in 2015 to mark the first anniversary of the death of transwoman Jennifer Laude, the group continues to campaign for LGBT+ rights alongside other issues of the marginalized. ###