By DR. BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS
There are enough laws that protect persons from discrimination on the basis of certain personal characteristics, including sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. First of all, Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” Under the Civil Code of the Philippines, Article 26 states that “Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy, and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons.” Among the acts that shall produce a cause of action for damages are: “Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.” Such other personal conditions can include sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
If necessary, an amendment can be introduced into this provision of the Civil Code to explicitly state that among the personal conditions is SOGIE, without the need for a separate legislation which can give rise to other persons with specific characteristics to also ask for explicit legislation concerning their personal circumstances. It may be true that persons who manifest gay characteristics can be bullied or insulted, especially by cruel classmates or male chauvinist thugs. As Senator Nancy Binay pointed out, however—partly in jest—there are people like her who have been made fun of because of the dark color of their skin. Others because of their ugly face, obese appearance, bald head, bad smell, Cebuano accent while speaking in English, etc., etc. It would be ridiculous if all these persons who experienced vexation or humiliation would ask for special legislation prohibiting discrimination against them. There are enough Civil Code provisions that can practically and sufficiently cover the entire concerns of the Anti-Discrimination bill on SOGIE, specifically Section 4, paragraphs (a) to (i) of the bill introduced by Senator Risa Hontiveros (S. No. 159).
Furthermore, any action of discrimination against LGBT people also falls under the provisions of RA No. 7877, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. Section 2 of this act states: “The State shall value the dignity of every individual, enhance the development of its human resources, guarantee full respect for human rights, and uphold the dignity of workers, employees, applicants for employment, students or those undergoing training, instruction, or education. Toward this end, all forms of sexual harassment in the employment, education or training environment are hereby declared unlawful.”
Over and above the pertinent constitutional, labor, civil, and criminal law provisions concerning discrimination against persons on the basis of certain characteristics, persons discriminated against due to sexual orientation by public officials and/or employees have the option of commencing administrative proceeding for the removal or dismissal of such erring public servants on the ground of grave misconduct, oppression, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Every single concern of the Anti-Discrimination bill on SOGIE is covered by the Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 19 series of 1998.
To illustrate the practical problems that will result from the implementation of the SOGIE bill in its various versions, let us enumerate some scenarios that could easily occur following the approval and implementation of this law:
- Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the Philippines would be apprehended if they will not admit individuals with active homosexual orientation as scout masters.
- The parishes of the Catholic Church, despite its moral stand, that homosexual acts are considered intrinsically illicit, would be apprehended if they will not recognize gay militant organizations that would like to enter as parish-based organizations. This would obviously be a violation of the right to religious freedom and freedom of consciences.
- Hospitals and clinics may be apprehended if they are not able to prioritize homosexual persons in admission to their facilities.
- Same-sex marriage licenses would be issued despite the provisions against it in the Family Code Section 5(g).
- Public establishments, despite their right to draw policies concerning dress codes and conduct in their premises, will be apprehended if they will deny entrance to a homosexual person who wears a dress or exhibits behavior contrary to the policies of the establishment.
- The responsibility of parents over their minor children under the Family Code of the Philippines will be undermined.
- Law enforcers who arrest persons caught in illicit behavior (such as sexual activity in a public place) could be apprehended for harassment).
- A government official who is tasked to prosecute under the provision of the proposed SOGIE law will be apprehended even if he judges that the discriminatory case at hand is irrelevant or invalid based on his or her own moral judgment.
Other possible situations that could arise if the SOGIE bill is passed would be a result of the repealing clause contained in Section 13 of the bill, which states that all laws, orders, rules and regulations, or parts thereof inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. It is not unlikely that it will undermine and render useless the other civil and criminal laws that are “inconsistent” with the provisions contained in the bill. It will tend to supersede any law that is working contrary to the needs of homosexual persons. For example, the bill if passed may undermine the anti-harassment laws by allowing persons with homosexual inclinations and behavior to pursue their same-sex inclinations by making advances to people of the same sex. It could also be a way to disregard the provision of the Family Code of the Philippines that clearly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The SOGIE bill is a veritable pandora’s box that could lead to practices that go against deeply ingrained moral and cultural customs of Philippine society.
(To be continued)