SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has joined organized labor and other caused-oriented groups in pushing for a law that will grant equal protection rights to people with different sexual orientation and gender identity.
Go and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), among other groups, expressed their full support to the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (Sogie) Equality bill, which the Senate tackled following an incident involving Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman, at a Quezon City mall.
Diez was arrested on Tuesday after she took a video using her mobile phone of how she was prevented by a janitor from entering the women’s comfort room at the Farmer’s Market mall in Cubao.
In his manifestation of support, Go said his home city of Davao had the same measure to safeguard the rights of the Davaoeño lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.
“Suportado ko po ito (I support this bill). In fact, sa Davao po, meron kaming (we have) anti-discrimination ordinance. It declares as unlawful the acts and conduct of discrimination based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin,” he said.
Go urged the Senate to ensure that all citizens are treated equally and justly, especially gender minorities who also contribute to the country’s development.
“We are all equal under the law and it is our duty in this institution to ensure that all Filipinos — regardless of… age, sex, religion, ethnicity or gender orientation — are treated equally and justly,” Go said.
“Moreover, it is only right to protect the welfare of our country’s gender minorities, who have contributed to our development and nation-building, and have served and continue to serve the Filipino people well,” he added.
Meanwhile, the TUCP denounced what happened to Diez and warned that such incidents would continue without an anti-discrimination law.
“This type of discrimination is bound to happen because there is also no mandatory Sogie-sensitive and responsive workplace and business policy standards that businesses and employers must abide to,” it added.
Also on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he was open to proposals to create “gender free” or “unisex” restrooms.
The senator noted that Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara filed an anti-discrimination bill that will address all concerns of LGBTQ community.
“I fully support that,” he said, referring to Senate Bill 137, or the “Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act of 2019,” to cover as wide a range of discriminatory practices as possible.
Zubiri noted that some restrooms abroad have no signage whether they are exclusive for male and female use “to accommodate LGBT.”
“I think there is no problem [with that]. If there are ordinances and if the law is passed, they just have to tweak their restroom setup in the future,” he said in a chance interview.
“For example, we would like to ask the malls, it may cost them a bit, to set up new restroom for particular sector. [If] there are unisex toilets, you just go to private toilets. There should be no more urinals. You just lock the door [and use it] whether you are male or female,” Zubiri said.
Asked whether the comfort room at the second floor of the Senate can be converted into “gender free” one, Zubiri said, “Why not? We can start in the Senate.”
Angara deplored that while the Philippines had come a long way in terms of being an open and equitable society, “there is still a lot more to be done to totally eliminate all forms of discrimination in the country.”
The bill prescribes a penalty of one to six years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to P500,000 for any person found to have committed acts of discrimination.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO