RENEWED calls opposing two new legislations that support the advocacies of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities were made anew by leaders and members of evangelical churches in Mindanao through a protest action over the weekend.
The Mindanao Evangelical Leaders Council (MELC) has expressed its objection to the two bills approved recently by the Lower House. Counterpart version of these legislation will be discussed and deliberated on in the Senate soon.
MELC is a broad coalition of evangelical bishops, faith-based organization leaders, and pastoral group heads in Mindanao.
In a position paper, the coalition said they are against house bills 4982, which, if passed into law, will prohibit the discrimination of the members of the LGBTs, and 6595, which will allow same-sex marriage in a largely conservative and Christian country.
HB 4982 is also known as the Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (Sogie) bill. LGBT is also called LGBTIQ which includes those categorized as having “intersex” characteristics, and “queers” or those who identify themselves homosexuals and other sexual orientation.
MELC president Bishop Genes Udang said that while the evangelical churches respect the LGBT individuals, they cannot allow these bills to be made into laws since these would in turn “discriminate” the majority of the Filipinos.
“In crafting the bills aimed at protecting the LGBT members, our lawmakers didn’t realize that the same bills will actually discriminate us, the majority,” Udang said in an interview over the weekend, where evangelical church members and other advocates staged a protest action expressing their opposition to the bills at the Divisoria Plaza here on Saturday evening.
He said they have LGBTs from among their faithful but insisted that being an LGBT member is a lifestyle and not a gender issue, and that no laws must be created to cater to this particular lifestyle.
“If that is your lifestyle, so be it, we don’t have anything against it. But to try to enforce it that will, in effect, disorient our lifestyle, that is something that we must make a stand on because it curtails and it violates our Constitutional rights,” the bishop added.
Whether a person is an LGBT or not, Udang said, everyone is guaranteed protection by the Philippine Constitution and other existing laws of the land.
“If they (LGBT) are discriminated in the workplace, for instance, we have the labor code to protect them,” he said.
One’s lifestyle like what the LGBTs choose is personal to them and is even accepted and tolerated in this country, the MELC said in its statement.
“This bill,” they added, “is more on giving preference to one sector over the rest of the majority of Filipinos. [This] will encourage other groups, like the pedophiles, etc. to also demand more anti-discriminatory laws for them.”
Also, the group said the penalty stipulated in the Sogie bill is “too much and without any justifiable basis which [is] tantamount to injustice and oppression.”
In the Sogie bill, those found guilty of discriminating against an LGBT will be fined not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000, or be imprisoned for less than one year but not more than six years or both.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, MELC said the bill attacks the moral, social and spiritual conviction of the majority of the Filipinos as they insisted that the state- and church-sanctioned civil union must only be between a man and a woman.
VenJohn Nuñez, former chairperson of the Northern Mindanao Aids Advocates (NorMAA) based here, said he and his fellow LGBTs are embracing the Sogie and same-sex marriage bills as these promote their rights as persons and as Filipinos.
Nuñez, who now heads the Iligan City-based LGBT advocacy group Channel 4 Iligan-LDN, said that while the Constitution, Civil Code and other national and local laws are there to protect the rights of every Filipino, there is a need to craft a statute that will address the concerns of the LGBT.
“Now, it’s about time that something is done for people to become sensitive enough on the issue on Sogie,” he said in a phone interview Sunday.
There may be existing laws, he added, but it seems these were in favor of the traditional perception of sexuality.
Reacting to the issue on same-sex marriage, Nuñez said every person has a right to choose who to marry. “Nobody can dictate who I want to marry or partner with.”
“My decision if I am going to marry or not, if I will establish a family or not, if I am going to have children or not, it’s our basic right. Marriage is just an affirmation of the emotion or the love that they give toward each other,” he added.
Meanwhile, the human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said that “sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse.”